LAGUNA NIGUEL : Cellular Tower to Stay, Despite Complaints

Over the objections of angry neighbors, the City Council decided not to revoke a permit for a 35-foot-high antenna built by AirTouch Cellular.

On a 4-1 vote late Tuesday, the council decided there wasn't a legal basis to rescind AirTouch Cellular's permit, although council members were skeptical over how the company dealt with neighborhood residents.

In February, the company sent the Seabreeze Homeowners Assn. a letter promising that the antenna would not be visible, which residents say reassured and kept them from attending subsequent Planning Commission meetings.

To their dismay, when the antenna was built, several feet of the tower could be seen from backyards on Baroness Lane near Golden Lantern.

"I think AirTouch has to search their conscience on this one," said Councilman Mark Goodman, who was succeeded as mayor by Patricia C. Bates on Tuesday.

But, "from a legal standpoint, I don't think we have grounds for revocation" of the permit.

Goodman and other council members said the company did properly follow the permit process through the Planning Commission.

However, Councilman Eddie Rose called for revoking the tower permit, saying "AirTouch did deceive residents, whether intentionally or not."

The company has planted trees to screen the antenna, but residents say they can still see it.

"Even with landscaping, not only can five feet of the main pole still be seen," said resident Nancy Smith, "but most of the antenna and the main dish too."

AirTouch officials promised to install more trees to help block the view.

They said a misunderstanding had come about when a tree was felled, exposing the antenna to the neighborhood.

"Our belief was that [the antenna] wouldn't be visible," said site development manager Larry Levine.

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