Divided council approves faux cactus DAS permits for Crown Castle

‘It must be nice to sit here and vote no’

heather carterCAREFREE – Rep. Heather Carter, R-Dist. 7, asked to be placed on the agenda just so she could introduce herself to council and invite citizens to contact her at
She said, “I respond to every e-mail personally.”

Mayor David Schwan said the town would be holding an Earth Day event at the town center from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, which will include shredding and electronic recycling along with Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office hosting its prescription drug disposal program. The event will be held in conjunction with the Kiwanis pancake breakfast.

Schwan also announced the new playground equipment installation has been completed and said citizens may want to check out the new ground surface, which he said is so pleasant on the feet it will make people want to go home and rip out all their tile flooring.

Town Accountant Jim Keen presented the February financials to council and said revenues were coming in just as he projected and sales tax collections were up .83 percent over last year.

Carefree/Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce Operations Director Patty Villenueve thanked the town for its financial support and updated council on how it was spending that money.

bob gemmillCouncilman Bob Gemmill suggested that when Villenueve provides council with numbers that she provide some sort of comparative numbers so they will know if it is more or less than previous years, what it means and if it has made any difference.

He indicated just saying how many packets they’ve mailed out doesn’t really mean anything on its own.

The main two items on the agenda dealt with a right-of-way (ROW) license agreement with Crown Castle (formerly NewPath Networks) and applications for 16 individual conditional use permits (CUP) for a distributed antenna system (DAS) wireless communications facility disguised as faux saguaro cactus.

Town Administrator/Planning Director Gary Neiss introduced the ROW agreement by reminding council of the “riveting discussion” the town had back in February regarding the Telecommunications Act of 1996 when third party experts in the field explained what municipalities could and could not regulate with respect to the law.

In dealing with indemnification, Neiss said with bonding there is a legal recourse you have to go through to collect, whereas a continuous letter of credit for $50,000 would allow the town to access that money quicker.

Neiss said the agreement provided for a universal established annual fee of $3,183 for each antenna node or 5 percent of Crown Castle’s gross revenue, whichever is greater; a one-time $10,000 administration fee; a $28,000 permit fee for nine miles of fiber optics; and separate permit fees for each antenna node.

michael whiteTown Attorney Michael White told council, “We negotiated a comprehensive agreement that will serve the town well.”

Councilman Bob Coady asked about indemnification to the town.

White said Crown Castle will carry $10 million in insurance, adding, “This was heavily negotiated. The town is completely indemnified.”

Neiss said, “Southwest Gas has an agreement much like this.

peter koteasCouncilman Peter Koteas had a laundry list of questions about the agreement, seeking clarification for some and requesting modification for others.

He asked if 20 years with three five-year extensions was common.

Councilman Doug Stavoe said since “covered” was capitalized in the agreement it should be added to the definitions. He also asked if the agreement shouldn’t just be for the 16 nodes and renegotiated if new nodes were to be added.

Neiss said the agreement was typical of utility agreements.

doug stavoeStavoe also said he would like to see the automatic renewal if no party takes any action scratched and suggested no extension be granted without consent.

White and Crown Castle argued the automatic renewal was in both parties’ best interest and common to such agreements.

During public comment, Scottsdale resident Jim Hacksby told council, “I’ve had some dealings with Crown Castle and I’ve come to warn you.”

He explained, in detail, his objections to the installation in his community, said it “caused a lot of animosity” and urged council “to be very cautious.”

Arthur Gimson said he didn’t have any concerns over the radio frequency and welcomed the technology. However, he wanted to ensure there would be proper maintenance so the faux cactus would not end up looking like the three at Desert Foothills Library, which he said have faded.

Crown Castle’s Attorney Lynne Lagarde told council, “Nothing in Mr. Hacksby’s comments are relevant and I’m not going to respond to them. The matter has been adequately addressed.”

She said Hacksby was the only dissatisfied resident out of the 200 locations approved by the city of Scottsdale.

glenn millerAddressing maintenance, Lagarde said Crown Castle is required to maintain the cactus in their original state or better than when installed for the entire duration of the agreement.
Vice Mayor Glenn Miller’s motion to approve the ROW agreement carried by a vote of 5-2, with Stavoe and Coady, who stated, “Federal law requires us to approve this. Our hands are tied. I vote no,” dissenting.

Assistant Planner DJ Stapley did a presentation for the 16 CUPs, explaining the process and detailing the public meetings held.

Lagarde touted Crown Castle’s reputation with over 22,000 sites installed and stated the work would most likely begin in June or July and would be completed around November or December.

During public comment, Elaine Sweet questioned the number of towers within her community and said there were five towers to be located within a two-mile radius.

She said, “I’m in the middle of all of them,” and asked, “Do we need five?”

Lagarde said the spacing relates to topography and identified radio frequency coordinates.
Steven Garcia from Crown Castle addressed what he called a “perceived concentration” on towers and said they needed to meet the minimum requirements and objectives of their clients.

He also said, “It’s certainly in our best interest to minimize the number of nodes,” but stated they couldn’t meet their objectives by doing so.

Miller motion to approve the 16 CUPs, with Gemmill seconding the motion, passed by a vote of 4-3 with Koteas, Stavoe and Coady dissenting.

“It must be nice to sit here and vote no,” said Miller after the vote, noting federal law requires them to allow the use, adding, “just so you can say you voted no to your constituents.”

Coady responded to Miller’s outburst by saying it was none of his business how others vote.
Schwan interrupted to end their discussion and so council could move on to the next agenda item regarding the purchase of a Savin 2404WD – Wide format Energy Star Copier.