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Neighbors rise against possible cell phone tower

Committee would take legal action, member says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Several neighbors on Borland Avenue are mobilizing to fight a potential 78-foot monopine cell phone tower that could be erected in the neighborhood. Danusia Szumowski, O.C. Taylor, Gary Clark and George Harrison have formed a committee to fight the tower. The group has created two videos stating why the tower should not go up. The footage shows various AT&T cell phone users making calls from the American River Canyon and others talking about how great their service is in the canyon. The videos are posted on the video-sharing website YouTube. Mayor Bill Kirby said the City Council would analyze all pertinent information when the issue returns to a future agenda. “We will be happy to see the video, but I’m not sure what relevance it has for AT&T coverage in the entire area,” he said. “We have had people who say they have no reception in the canyon, including me.” AT&T is hoping to construct the tower at 169 Borland Avenue. AT&T representatives have previously stated that they hope the tower will make the canyon safer for those who use it by building AT&T’s coverage. They also stated the antennae would add coverage to Old Town and Downtown. The Borland neighborhood in concern is zoned residential and industrial, and the area where the cell phone would potentially be erected is zoned for industrial use. Jacob Reeves, a contractor for the Lyle Company, which represents AT&T on the project, was unavailable for comment after multiple calls Monday. Szumowski said she thinks AT&T has reasons other than safety that it wants to build the monopine, which is a cell phone tower constructed to look like a tree. Szumowski said the videos show extended AT&T coverage is not needed. “We know that it’s not needed,” she said. “What they have been saying is actually a farce. (I think) they just want to build the tower and lease it out to other companies’ (antennas). They may come up with some argument about why they need to do it there, but truth is, they could do it somewhere else.” AT&T representatives said the Borland address provides them with the best service coverage possible. Szumowski said she has about an hour of footage, and she interviewed about 30 people on non-consecutive days about their AT&T coverage in the areas the company said it needed to expand its coverage, like the canyon and Old Town. “Nobody said they didn’t get reception,” she said. “Some of them said it fluctuates, but they always get reception.” While the tower was scheduled for discussion at the Jan. 10 City Council meeting, AT&T asked for a continuance, which the council members granted. There is no firm date of when the issue would come back to the council. “We don’t know anything about if and when they are even going to come back to us,” Kirby said. “I think we all assume they will.” The committee also has a petition signed by 57 people in the Borland area who are opposed to the tower. Borland Avenue resident George Harrison said they had planned to present the petition at the city council meeting. O.C. Taylor, who lives on Borland Avenue and would have the closest residence to the monopine, said he thinks the videos are necessary. “It’s relevant I would think in lieu of what’s been going on here,” Taylor said. “I went to a bunch of (Planning Commission and City Council) meetings, and (Reeves) always brings up the fact that you can’t use the phone down in the canyon. Every time I have been down in the canyon, I have used the phone. The things they are saying aren’t true at all.” Auburn cyclist Dylan Clark, Gary Clark’s son, said he always get reception when he rides in the canyon, and he thinks the tower will change the look of the area. “I think that Auburn prides itself on being really pretty,” Dylan Clark said. “I just think it’s unnecessary to put such an eyesore up.” Gary Clark said he felt like the monopine construction was a done deal until neighbors raised concerns. “(I think) this thing was actually just going to go through with no problems,” Gary Clark said. “The next time there is a meeting (concerning the tower), that place is going to be flooded with people.” Szumowski said the committee would pursue other options if the tower were approved. “I can assure you we will take legal action,” she said. Shawn Thomas, owner of Auburn Reptile Company on Borland Avenue, and one of the business representatives who signed the petition, said he used to have AT&T, and the service was horrible in many local areas, but not in the canyon. “They definitely need a new cell phone tower,” Thomas said. “That’s just probably not the best place for it.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com