Vote pending on cell towers

Huntington Beach and the wireless company T-Mobile held community meetings last week to introduce new proposed locations for cell towers, continuing a process that has sparked lawsuits and resident protests in recent years.

The meetings, held to get feedback from residents, were part of an effort by the city and company to settle out of court amid ongoing litigation. The City Council plans to vote in January on whether to accept the tower locations, said City Attorney Jennifer McGrath.

City and company representatives met with residents Nov. 16 and 17 to introduce the proposed Springdale Pump Station and Huntington Harbour Mall locations, which T-Mobile needs to close a coverage gap, said Associate Planner Andrew Gonzales.

But residents seem unhappy with at least one of those two locations, Gonzales said.

Some residents who attended the Nov. 16 meeting for the Springdale Pump Station location expressed concern with how close the site will be to the residential area and the Bolsa Chica wetlands.

Resident Shelley Chacon said the Springdale location, south of Springdale Street and Littlefield Drive, will put the tower directly across from her house. Chacon said she's not willing to put up with a lower property value or health concerns from the tower's close proximity to residents.

"I think it's atrocious," she said. "I don't think it should go in a residential area. As a pediatrician, I know there is a lot of research showing that in close proximity, cell towers might have an effect. If this goes in, I will move. If they put it here, I have to move, and I think that's ridiculous."

The two new locations are a compromise from previous sites that upset residents and led to lawsuits against the city.

The city initially signed a contract in 2007 with T-Mobile to install telecommunication towers at Bolsa View Park and Harbor View Park. Residents protested when they found out about the park locations, which led the city to ask T-Mobile to stop voluntarily.

Soon after, the city halted the project for a technical reason. McGrath said T-Mobile initially estimated the project to be worth $60,000, which didn't require a vote of the people. But when the city found out that the project was worth about $200,000, it stopped T-Mobile from proceeding.

T-Mobile filed a lawsuit in 2009, and the city lost.

The judge allowed T-Mobile to file another application with the city and go through a public hearing. The City Council turned down T-Mobile's second request, which led to another lawsuit in 2010.

The city and the wireless company are now trying to settle out of court. The case is expected to go to trial at the end of January if the two new locations are not approved by the city.

"The city screwed up," Chacon said. "The city is under the gun and willing to sacrifice us because their lawsuit goes away."

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