The Kenwood Press
News: 04/15/2017

BZA to consider Warm Springs Road cell tower facility

Alec Peters


The Sonoma County Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) will decide April 20 whether or not to approve a use permit for a Verizon wireless telecommunications facility at 2550 Warm Springs Road.

The proposed use permit for antennas and equipment housed in a 67-foot faux water tower has attracted strong opposition from many neighbors who say a commercial facility does not belong in a rural residential area or within the Warm Springs Road scenic corridor.

The April 20 BZA hearing will start at 1 p.m. in the hearing room of the Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD), 2550 Ventura Ave., Santa Rosa.

In a petition signed by 36 residents of 21 Warm Springs Road properties, neighbors argue that no matter how the faux water tower is disguised, it will have a significant visual impact.

“The properties in our area were bought and homes built specifically to take advantage of the scenic views in this valley corridor,” states the petition, “and the proposed communications facility will stick up 30 feet above the tree line, severely impairing several properties’ scenic views.”

Neighbors have submitted several photos using a long string of balloons to show what they say would be the true visual impact.

Property values will decrease due to the tower, neighbors argue, citing studies that indicate drops in value of 10 to 20 percent for properties within a to a mile away.

Neighbors have also brought up issues regarding drainage, access and easements.

At a meeting of the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission (SVCAC) in February, a land use planner working for Verizon, Michelle Ellis, said that the area (parts of Warm Springs and Bennett Valley roads) is a dead zone for the company. Ellis said the tower will improve coverage and help with increasing data usage demands.

Ellis maintained that the visual, lighting and acoustic impacts will be minimal and meet county standards, and the water tower will blend into existing terrain.

The nearest cell tower from the proposed site is 1.7 miles away and is operated by AT&T. Ellis said a normal cell tower covers about a one mile range.

By a vote of 6-2, the SVCAC recommended the county approve the use permit, but asked Ellis to bring to the BZA a map that would indicate the range of Verizon’s coverage if it were to co-locate on another service’s wireless facility. In addition, the SVCAC asked Ellis to develop a landscape plan to help hide the structure from a neighbor whose driveway Verizon will have to use to access the project site.

Any questions or comments about the project can be directed to the county planner assigned to the project, Gary Helfrich, at, 565-2404.