VERDE VALLEY - A proposed 80-foot wireless tower aimed at improving cell service in the area of SR 260 and Coury Dr. was unanimously approved by Camp Verde Planning and Zoning on Feb. 4.
One member, Vice Chair Dave Freeman, was absent from voting.
The tower, to be built by SBA for Verizon Wireless and possibly other carriers, was first proposed in 2011 to meet the increasing demands for wireless data in the area.
The location is home to current as well as future industrial development and RV parks.
According to the applicant, cell coverage to the nearby 340-site Verde Valley RV and Camping Resort (Thousand Trails) is inadequate. In addition, another RV resort (Sedona Views) is being built on county property just north of the proposed tower.
Also cited by the applicant was the need to boost bandwidth to motorists commuting to and from I-17.
"We are trying to bridge the gap between Cottonwood and Camp Verde," said Reg Destree of Destree Development, who represented the applicant at the meeting.
"Years ago we thought it would all be satellite, but the opposite is true due to all the data devices," he said.
Destree explained at a presentation in Clarkdale that, unlike cellular devices which may be moved for connectivity, "data devices either connect or they don't."
A presentation was also made to the commission by Michael Jenkins, Community Development director for the Town of Camp Verde.
He reported that the proposed structure had cleared review by the required local and federal agencies.
Jenkins also said that no residents in the vicinity had filed complaints, either at public hearings or upon being notified by mail.
The applicant reported that the nearest home to the proposed tower is 7,000 feet away and that the tower setback is 1,500 feet from SR 260.
With a 10-year renewal provision, some commissioners discussed the possibility of an extension, but no consensus was achieved.
One area of questioning was the criteria for best practices contained in the town's wireless ordinance.
"You weigh an application on how they fit an ordinance. They can do things to get a higher preference," Jenkins said. "Our whole planning and zoning came from Yavapai County and we have not rewrote this yet."
A numerical ranking system is not used in the wireless ordinance. Rather, phrases such as "most preferred" and "low, medium and high" can improve an applicant's outcome.
"It's a criteria that is hard to apply. I don't want to go medium or low without saying what it means. I'd say this ordinance needs some revising and re-organization," said Commissioner Chip Norton.
Also of concern to town council was the final appearance of the tower. Norton inquired about the most desirable color.
"Flat gray is your best bet. If you want gray, put it in the stipulation. That's the easiest way to enforce it," said Destree.
"I recommend that we include that in the recommendation," said Chairman B.J. Davis.
Commissioner Bob Burnside voiced his concern at the wording displayed on the application's map.
"Is there any way you can redo this page before you take it to council? Instead of Camp Verde Indian Reservation, it should be changed to Yavapai-Apache Nation. Please change that," said Burnside.
Destree responded, "We did not notice that. That's how it's displayed on MapQuest. We'll certainly change that."
Unlike the controversy surrounding the cell tower erected last spring behind Nate's Cowboy Café in Clarkdale, no pushback has been documented from area residents in Camp Verde.
Clarkdale residents had voiced concerns about the tower compromising views of the mountains and possible health issues with radio wave emissions.
Although invited at call of the public, no community feedback occurred at this meeting.
What to expect
The requested building site is a 10-acre industrial parcel adjoining undeveloped industrial property to the north, undeveloped state land to the east and national forest land to the south.
Destree stated that the requested location was one of three in the area that were considered.
This particular site is downhill, minimizing visual impact from the highway.
"It's not going to block anyone's view of Sedona and it's not very visible when painted low reflective gray. There will be no lights on the tower," he said.
For security, chain link fence with three strands of barbed wire will enclose the tower and storage building.
"Locating sites in industrial areas far away from homes is the goal of most wireless ordinances and this site does exactly that," stated a summary on the application.
"We are here for planning and zoning and hopefully move along with council," Destree said.
The Planning and Zoning Commission made a motion to recommend approval of the cell tower to the Camp Verde Town Council on Feb. 24.
The motion passed unanimously, with the stipulation that "all tower structures and all equipment attached be a painted a non-reflective gray color."Who - SBA for Verizon Wireless
What - 80-foot, multi-carrier, monopole wireless cell tower,
When - Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m., Camp Verde Town Council considers approval of cell tower application upon request of Planning and Zoning.
Where - Industrial park at Coury Dr. and SR 260 in Camp Verde, behind Nexcar Automotive.
Why - High data demand from existing as well as future industrial and RV parks in the area, along with cell use by motorists commuting to and from I-17.
How - Having cleared agency review and public comment, the request moves-on to town council. The Camp Verde Planning and Zoning Commission added the stipulation that the tower and structures be painted a non-reflective flat gray color.