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About 50 residents turned out to the Sedona United Methodist Church and made their feelings known — no cell tower in their backyard.

The hour-long public meeting on Monday, June 5, got heated at times as some talked over others or over Michelle Lamoureux of Pinnacle Consulting, which represents Verizon Wireless.

Most who spoke were concerned about the proposed tower being an eyesore or blocking their views of nearby mountains and landmarks.

Lamoureux said that discussions between the church at 110 Indian Cliffs Road and Verizon have been going on for more than two years — another sticking point for some who said they just recently heard about the idea.

The cell tower, which would look like a pine tree, would be placed in the rear of the church at a maximum height of 50 feet with a base area of 20 feet by 20 feet. She said this style and location has been deemed the least obstructive while still meeting the network’s needs.

“We have looked at several sites in the area but this site was deemed the best in terms of voice and data coverage,” she said. “This is not something we take lightly.

“One of the other options we could have gone with was at the fire station [Station 6]. In that particular site it could have been a lattice structure that was 70 feet. As a company we chose not to do that because we felt Sedona deserved better. Plus, the church was really great about wanting to do something that wasn’t going to be ugly. We’re not here to make people unhappy. We’re just trying to provide a service.”

She said that while some may not feel having improved coverage is important, she pointed out that in areas of poor coverage, contacting emergency service can be more difficult. She then said that nearly 65 percent of households no longer have land line phones, only cell phones. In fact, she said over the last two years, demand for cellular services as a result of smartphones and other devices has increased by 800 percent.

“Things are moving toward just having cellular service,” Lamoureux said.

The meeting was held at the church’s request, she said, in an attempt to be good neighbors. Some didn’t see it that way. Lamoureux was asked how much the church would be paid monthly to have the tower.

She said that’s confidential, to which one woman said the church is only doing it because it’s struggling financially. Another asked if nearby homeowners would be compensated. They will not.

Lamoureux provided handouts that showed architectural renderings with the tower inserted into photos showing its view from different directions. She said based on requests of audience members, they would provide renderings from additional locations with views of the church.

One woman said the tower would be the largest “structure” in the area and that it would negatively effect residents and tourists. Others asked why this proposal was done in secrecy while another asked why a tower similar to the one at the Church of the Red Rocks can’t be put in.

“The lack of communication leads to mistrust,” one woman said.

Lamoureux said the tower needs to be higher than the church itself and that it will fill those service gaps now being experienced by residents in the area. And unlike at city meetings where the cell phone topic is being debated, only one person brought up potential health risks to nearby residents.

“At the end of the day, Verizon is a business,” Lamoureux said. “This is an expensive endeavor so they’re not going to build a tower without a purpose or need.”

She did point out that Verizon has signed a lease with the church so at this point, the church no longer has a say in the matter. For now, Verizon is waiting for the conditional use permit to make its way through the city. Therefore, she said it’s “not a 100 percent done deal.”

Community Development Director Audree Juhlin said the next day that the CUP application is out for third-party expert review.

“It is my understanding that the third-party review agency is still waiting on outstanding information needed to complete their review and assessment of the application,” she said. “Once they complete their review of the application, we will draft a staff report and place this item on a future Planning and Zoning Commission agenda for review and consideration.”

Juhlin added that P&Z is the decision-making body for this application and does not require City Council review or action. The city has little ability to weigh in on the cell tower based on Federal Communications Commission regulations. However, Juhlin said if the third-party expert review comes back with issues not in compliance with the FCC, then the city has some ability to have a greater say.

“At this time because we do not know when we will get the application back, I do not know when P&Z will consider it,” she said. “Most likely it will be late July or August, if the application comes back in June. Otherwise, probably some time this fall. Again, it all depends on when the third-party expert review is completed."


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