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By Joe Naiman
Village News reporter 

Zoning Administrator approves replacement wireless tower on Palos Verdes Drive


Last updated 12/25/2019 at 4:55am

The county's Zoning Administrator approved the replacement of a wireless communications tower in southeastern Bonsall.

Eric Lardy, who served as the Zoning Administrator for the Dec. 19 hearing, approved a modification to the previous Minor Use Permit to allow Crown Castle to reconstruct, operate, and maintain the facility in the 31900 block of Palos Verdes Drive.

In addition to replacing the monopole with a false tree, a height exemption to the Zoning Ordinance was granted to accommodate the taller false tree. Lardy's findings included that the previous environmental Negative Declaration is adequate with the addendum which was submitted.

"This will not make the situation worse," Lardy said.

In 2003, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance addressing wireless communications facilities, and that ordinance included a requirement for a Major Use Permit to site a wireless facility on land with residential or agricultural zoning.

However, any facility on such land which had previously been approved with a Minor Use Permit could continue under that lesser permit. A September 1996 Zoning Administrator decision approved a Minor Use Permit for a 40 foot tall monopole and two equipment cabinets.

Two minor deviations were subsequently approved to allow for the installation of new antennas, remote radio units and miscellaneous supporting equipment, and the 2017 minor deviation allowed for an antenna height on top of the monopole to create a structure 43 feet in height.

The 5.59-acre property has a second facility; that 50-foot-tall monopole was authorized by the Zoning Administrator in December 1999 and is approximately 22 feet east of the first facility.

The property has Rural Residential zoning, and the wireless facility ordinance also includes an amortization provision for monopoles and lattice towers. The 43-foot-tall monopole will be replaced with a 45-foot-tall false elm tree, and landscaping consisting of three new trees which will grow up to 40 feet will help camouflage the new structure.

Because the construction will be within the same footprint as the tower to be replaced no trenching or grading will be needed, and no changes will be made to the two existing equipment cabinets which are at the base of the monopole.

"The facility is compatible with the character of the community" said Hunter McDonald, the project manager for the county's Department of Planning and Development Services (PDS). "The required findings can be made."

Access to the facility is provided by an existing private maintenance access road along the northern portion of the site which connects to Palos Verdes Drive. Palos Verdes Drive, which connects to Old Highway 395, is a private road.

A nearby resident expressed concern in writing about the potential damage to the private road from vehicles working on the new facility or servicing the facility, but any damage to the road will be covered by the applicant. "The permit would be conditioned to assume responsibility," McDonald said.

The road maintenance costs are also addressed in the permit. "The applicant is responsible on a proportional basis based on the number of trips generated," McDonald said.

The August 2018 meeting of the Bonsall Community Sponsor Group included a 7-0 vote to recommend approval of the permit modification.

AT&T operates the other facility on the site, and PDS will work with AT&T on the replacement of that monopole. "PDS staff will be reaching out to AT&T," McDonald said.


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