A HOLMES RANCH (Philo) couple has applied to install a cell phone tower on their ridge top property in the face of neighbor opposition and in apparent violation of the Holmes Ranch Association’s rules.
Sean & Lynn Mullen
15001 Kramer Ln.
Philo, CA 95466
November 27, 2017
Holmes Ranch Association Board
P.O. Box 275
Philo, CA 95466
RE: Installation of a Cell Phone Tower
Dear Holmes Ranch Board,
Over the past number of months we have been working with AT&T to explore the installation of a phone and internet tower on our property. This involves AT&T leasing a portion of our parcel (approximately 2,000 sq. ft.) for the tower and its environment. We will receive monthly rent in exchange. The goals for this endeavor include:
(1) Safety and Infrastructure: Improved phone coverage for safety within HRA and our community at large, for both mobile networks and broadband internet. The recent fires in Mendocino county have shown more redundancy is needed when it comes to coverage for residents.
(2) Better Technology Options: HRA, and more broadly our community of Anderson Valley, is in desperate need of additional, reliable, internet and data options.
(3) Responsible Installation: We’ve identified an ideal spot on our property that is easily accessed, but will leverage surrounding trees and vegetation to conceal the tower location. Additionally, AT&T will put forth a substantial investment to construct the tower to appear as a natural tree (monopine). You may view the proposed site location by pasting these coordinates into an online map program: 39.135046, -123.499638
It goes without saying there are a number of concerns that we as homeowners have about a project like this. We would never undertake a project that would damage the long-term safety of our family, or the enjoyment of our land. We have done our due diligence, weighed pros and cons, and decided to move forward. We understand that there could be questions and concerns from the Membership concerning our plans.
With that in mind, we would like to invite the Membership to discuss this project in person on Thursday, December 14 at 5:30pm, at our home. There will be a representative of AT&T on hand to answer technical questions and provide details on specifications.
Thank you for your consideration!
Sean and Lynn Mullen
KATHY BAILEY neatly summarizes neighborhood objections:
Proposed 110-Foot Cell Tower on Holmes Ranch
To Whom It May Concern:
My family and I live at the corner of Nash Mill and Clow Ridge Roads on what is usually referred to as the Nash Ranch. My property adjoins the Holmes Ranch on two sides. Recently, I have become aware of the proposal to locate a cell tower on the Holmes Ranch nearby and uphill to my home where we have lived for approximately 31 years. I have had the opportunity to review many of the documents presented to the members of the Holmes Ranch Association and have spoken with several people who live near the proposed site of the 110 foot tower. Based on my review so far, I have a number of concerns.
Health: Although citations provided by the project proponents minimize the possible health risks of cell towers, a review of other information online indicates that the science on this question is not settled and that while being ½ mile away is probably OK, being less than 1500 feet away is potential concerning. We are within that distance of concern. Sleeplessness and irritability are regularly cited as problems.
According to the proposal documents, the Radio Frequency (RF) radiation from the tower will be directed downhill. This is exactly where my home is located. Our bedroom windows face in the direction of the proposed cell tower and based on the provided information, our home will be receiving a relatively concentrated dose of the tower’s emissions. The idea of being continuously flooded with these waves every night when we sleep or use the bedrooms, in addition to inevitable daytime exposure, is very disturbing for us. Additionally, as many as two additional sets of antennae could be located in the future on the same mast due to the principle of Co-location, presumably tripling the amount of RF radiation emanating from the tower. We do not wish to be in a “sacrifice zone” so someone else can have better cell reception. I am not at all surprised that property owners close to the proposed cell tower are also very concerned.
Visuals: We are unlikely to be too troubled by the looming 11-story-tall industrial cell tower apparatus because it will be somewhat shielded by patchy tree cover at many locations from our 40-acre property. However, I think the idea that this massive structure will fade into the background for Holmes Ranch residents because of the “mono-pine” design will prove to be a complete fantasy. Anyone coming around the corner below the vineyard will be very aware of the cell tower. It will be 24 feet in diameter at the base and significantly above the adjacent canopy. I am attaching some photos of other mono-pine towers and have concentrated on photos that indicate the height of the mono-pine. (See below.) While I could not find one that says it is 110 feet tall, one of the examples is 70 feet and another is 80 feet. So one would mentally add another 30-40 feet onto the photos. For height reference, the typical utility pole around here is approximately 30 feet tall, so this tower will be close to 4 times as high and much more massive around.
Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs): Although my own property is not covered by the Holmes Ranch CC&Rs I have had the opportunity to review the most current version and find it bizarre that the Association officers would not immediately recognize that the cell tower proposal is a “nuisance” for neighboring owners who object to it on very reasonable grounds, including loss of aesthetic values, loss of resale value, and significant reasonable health concerns. This is an 11-story industrial tower in plain sight. Several adjacent and nearby parcel owners object to it.
Article 3 “Use Restrictions,” Section 3.1 “Nuisance” states in pertinent part:
“No illegal, noxious or offensive activities shall be carried out or conducted upon any Lot or Common Area nor shall anything be done within the Project which is or can become an unreasonable annoyance or nuisance to neighboring Owners.” [Emphasis added.]
Even without referring to definitions outside the document, one can reasonably believe that feeling unsafe in one’s own home rises to the very low standard of “annoyance” identified in the CCRs. Further, according to Google the definition of “nuisance” is:
“a person, thing, or circumstance causing inconvenience or annoyance.
synonyms: annoyance, inconvenience, bore, bother, irritation, problem, trouble, trial, burden”
Does not that pretty much cover what many of the neighbors feel about the proposed cell tower?
Why, you may ask, am I interested in the Holmes Ranch CCRs and their interpretation? In addition to my concern for the well-being of those in my own home and that of my neighbors, back in the 1970s I worked for TJ Nelson and Assoc. and was one of the real estate agents who sold a number of parcels on the Holmes Ranch, including several in the immediate vicinity of the proposed cell tower. We always presented the CCRs to potential buyers as a mechanism to ensure that their property rights and property values would be protected in perpetuity. I can imagine the uncomfortable interpersonal dynamics of the tower proponent being the current head of the Home Owners Association, but this does not relieve the other members of the Board from exercising their discretion in this matter. If this were a junk-car parking lot proposal, one presumes board members would easily deem it a nuisance. Instead it is a much larger and more permanent industrial facility being proposed, which neighboring owners object to. It is most certainly a “problem, irritation, annoyance, and burden” for these owners. It is, in fact, a “nuisance,” and is not allowed under the CC&Rs.
When to Act: It has come to my attention that the HOA Board proposes not to consider the matter further until after the proposal has gone to the Mendocino County Planning Commission. Once Mendocino County approves the tower, the HOA proposes to only then solicit members’ opinion prior to signing the license agreement for the use of Association Roads. By the time one reaches this stage, ATT will have invested a very significant amount of time and trouble in trying to get their tower approved. Based on previous actions by Mendocino County it is highly likely to be approved. The only purpose served by putting off the consultation with parcel owners is to make it that much more difficult to turn down the project on the basis of “nuisance.” By taking this approach, the Board is abdicating its responsibility to enforce the CCRs.
Alternatives: Less than two years ago Verizon put up a large cell tower near the corner of Signal Ridge and Greenwood Road, which is visible with the naked eye on the ridgeline. This dramatically increased coverage, including in most of the places the Holmes Ranch ATT tower is supposed to improve. Co-location on that tower could be considered. If that is not feasible, I strongly recommend that ATT should make a serious effort to find a location that does not negatively affect the well-being, peace of mind, and property values of so many residents both on the Holmes Ranch and nearby. As it was when it first came on the market in the early 1970s, the Holmes Ranch is the most well-designed and desirable development of residential parcels in Anderson Valley, if not in all of Mendocino County. It would be a tremendous shame to allow a major permanent blight on the landscape that this cell tower will be.
Now is the time for the HOA Board to consult with Holmes Ranch property owners about whether to support or oppose as a nuisance the cell tower proposal. This should not be a “majority rules” situation because those on the bottom of the ranch will not be much affected by the tower. However, if even one nearby parcel owner believes the cell tower proposal is an “annoyance,” “problem,” “trouble,” “burden,” that is, a “nuisance,” the HOA should reject the proposal and allow ATT to find somewhere else to put its tower.
Kathy Bailey, Philo