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Zoning Administrator approves permit modification for Pankey Farm wireless system

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

San Diego County’s zoning administrator approved a modification to the minor use permit for a wireless communications facility at Pankey Farm.

The Thursday, Oct. 20, decision by Zoning Administrator Connor McGee allows Crown Castle to revise, operate and maintain an existing wireless facility in the 4800 block of Highway 76. The permit is for a period of 10 years and expires Oct. 20, 2032, although it could subsequently be extended by a modification.

The 62.47-acre property has Specific Plan Area (S88), Freeway Commercial (C44) and General Agriculture (A72) zoning although the wireless facility lease area is within the S88 portion of the property. The lease area has the SR-10, Semi-Rural with one dwelling unit per 10 acres, land use designation. The minor use permit was originally approved in January 2001 and was for a period of 15 years. Although the permit expired in January 2016 a facility is allowed to operate with an expired permit if an extension is in process.

Sections 6985 and 6991 of the county’s zoning ordinance stipulate that permits for high-visibility wireless facilities in a residential or rural zone have a maximum term of 10 years for facilities valued between $10,000 and $500,000 and 15 years for facilities valued at $500,000 or more. Monopoles including monopipes are included in the county’s definition of high-visibility towers.

The permit may be extended in the case of economic hardship or if no smaller or less visible technology to replace the facility is available or feasible. The design of the Pankey Farm wireless telecommunication facility was found to utilize the most current technology, so McGee approved an additional 10 years of operation with modifications before the facility will be re-evaluated against technology available in the future.

Stealth branching will be added to the 12 existing monopipes. The monopipes are currently 15 feet tall, and the stealth branching will increase the height to 17 feet, 9 inches. The number of existing panels, which is 12, equating to four per sector, will remain the same.

Six existing antennas will be replaced, and three antennas will be relocated. The number of remote radio units will increase from 12 to 15. The number of tower mounted antennas will decrease from 12 to six. The number of coax jumpers will decrease from 12 to six. Three 24-pair fiber trunks and three direct current trunks will be installed. One battery cabinet will be installed while one Global System for Mobile Communications cabinet will be removed.

All of the antennas will have “socks” installed on them for camouflage. The remote radio units and equipment will be painted dark green to match the mono-broadleaf foliage. The adjacent equipment enclosure is 11 feet, 3 inches high and is tucked within the hillside, which limits the visibility of the existing equipment cabinet.

The wireless facility is approximately 1,500 feet from the state Route 76/Interstate 15 interchange, which is the nearest public road, and approximately 1,000 feet northwest of the nearest single-family residence. Due to topography and the surrounding vegetation including citrus and avocado groves, the facility is not visible from most residences, and while it may be visible from some nearby residences, it will blend with several existing citrus and avocado trees as they grow to a similar height.

The 12 Fallbrook Community Planning Group members who were present at the August 2021 planning group meeting all recommended approval of the permit modification.


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