May 2, 2013
Tiobe Barron, OVN correspondent
The Ventura County Planning Division will host a public outreach meeting Tuesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Oak View Community Center to discuss standards for wireless communication facilities in Ventura County. The meeting is the second of three being held to collect public input before the county drafts an ordinance delineating criteria for cell towers, antennae and other structures used in wireless communication. The Tuesday night meeting will focus primarily on the unincorporated areas of the Ojai Valley.
“The Ventura County Planning Division receives numerous applications for wireless facilities each year,” according to a statement from the Planning Division website. “As the wireless communications industry continues to implement a wireless network to provide the next generation of service (fourth generation service, or 4G), the number of applications for new wireless communication facilities is expected to increase. Because Ventura County does not currently have a comprehensive set of regulations for wireless communications facilities, processing these applications can be challenging and time-consuming.”
The Ventura County Planning Division’s long-range planning manager, Rosemary Rowan, said requests for wireless communication permits are increasing. “The current system for processing wireless communication facility (WCF) permits works reasonably well when the number of permits processed each year is not large. For example, between 2006 and 2009, the Planning Division, on average, processed about 13 permits per year (that includes new facilities and modifications to previously approved permits),” explained Rowan. “However, the number of permits processed by the Planning Division increased recently. In 2011, for example, we issued 33 permits. We expect that trend to continue as providers expand network coverage and upgrade networks for the fourth generation, or 4G, service. As a result, we believe this is a good time for Ventura County to develop an ordinance that provides a consistent set of siting and design standards.”
Currently, an applicant for a WCF permit in Ventura County must obtain a Conditional Use Permit (C.U.P.) through the Planning Division. Because a C.U.P. is discretionary, these projects are subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) standards. Additionally, WCF project applications are subject to the county’s Non-coastal Zoning Ordinance, Federal Communications Commission limits on Radio Frequency emissions, specific area plan policies and a set of guidelines adopted in 1999 by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.
As part of the Ventura County General Plan, the Board of Supervisors did adopt an area plan for the Ojai Valley. The policies pertaining to WCF projects prohibit “grading which will significantly degrade or destroy a scenic view or vista,” restrict structures that are on or near ridgelines to single-story construction, use setbacks of 50 feet or more from the edge of a ridgeline and use landscaping “to soften the visual impact of homes and graded areas.” In addition, antennae facilities are to be colored to “blend in with the background view,” and, except for monopoles, are limited to a 40-foot height limit, among other design criteria.
In order to craft a new ordinance for WCF projects, the Board of Supervisors voted Nov. 13, 2012 to allot $48,000 for the fiscal year — $15,000 for consultant services and $33,000 for about 660 hours of staff time. Nearly the same was proposed for the fiscal year 2013 to 2014, for a total of $97,000 to craft the ordinance.
Current pending county WCF permit applications include: a renewal of a C.U.P. for a 350-foot television communication facility on South Mountain Road in Santa Paula; a 10-year extension of a C.U.P. for a 120-foot AT&T monopole and four panel antennae on Crooked Palm Road near Highway 33; a continued C.U.P. for “an unlimited term” for an existing 80-foot WCF atop Hall Mountain above Ventura Avenue; a C.U.P. to replace an existing 50-foot monopole with two 15-foot frames with four panel antennae each on Creek Road; and a C.U.P. for the construction of a new monopole disguised as a 55-foot pine tree in Mira Monte by New Cingular Wireless, among others.
To contribute you input to these discussions, attend the meeting May 7 at the Oak View Community Center, 18 Valley Road, Oak View. Visit www.ventura.org/rma/planning for more information.