Council OKs amendments for cell tower requests

The Huntington Beach City Council voted Monday to upgrade the city's cell tower review process.

The amendments will increase public participation and notifications when telecommunication providers are seeking to locate cell receptors.

The changes, though, were not enough for some residents.

"I resent the implication that we are against cell tower placements, as we, of course, also want good cell coverage," said resident Shelley Chacon. "But they can be placed in a manner protecting the citizens from undue burdens and still meet this goal, and the zoning ordinance can require this legally and defensibly."

In 2009, the City Council directed staff to work on addressing the permitting and entitlements of cell towers within 500 feet of schools. The council also asked staff to require permits that would be addressed and approved during public meetings.

The Planning Commission in December voted to require permits for all wireless communication facilities located within 1,200 feet of residential areas. But staff recommended that the permits be required for new, freestanding cell towers — ones not attached to a building or on roofs — that can't be seen.

The commission also wanted the cell towers to be approved after a gap in coverage was established, but because that process is lengthy and expensive, staff recommended that the cell towers be approved based on aesthetics, land-use compatibility and code compliance.

The staff recommendations passed 4-3, with council members Connie Boardman, Joe Shaw and Matthew Harper dissenting. Boardman and Shaw wanted more restrictions that would base the decision on gap coverage and allow residents the chance for greater participation. Harper dissented, saying he preferred fewer restrictions than those approved.

Beach, Ellis project

In other action, the council voted 5-2 to approve the environmental impact report for the Beach and Ellis mixed-use project. The report analyzes the potential development of housing and retail space in the area, but an actual project has not been presented at this time.

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