AT&T proposes two new cell towers on Tomales ranch

01/01/2020

AT&T has revised its design for a new wireless facility on a ranch north of Tomales after receiving feedback from the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, which holds a conservation easement on the property. The telecom company last month requested county permits to build two new wireless communication poles, 15 feet tall and 30 feet tall, meant to improve coverage in the rural area. (AT&T originally proposed one 75-foot pole.) Executive Director Jamison Watts said MALT asked the landowner, Glenn Parks, who raises beef cattle and sheep on the 200-acre ranch, to work with AT&T to draft a new, less intrusive design. Mr. Watts said the trust is still reviewing the latest proposal, submitted by an AT&T contractor, Epic Wireless. The application is still incomplete, however. In addition to several clerical issues, county staffer Immanuel Bereket said it was unclear until recently that the proposal is for fourth-generation cellular technology, not fifth-generation, or 5G, technology—and did not qualify as a small-cell facility, for which Marin has a particular set of regulations. Ashley Smith, a site acquisition specialist with Epic Wireless, explained that the 4G towers will make use of fewer, larger antennas; under the current proposal for Tomales, both poles would have four antennas for a total of eight. Once the county deems the application complete, it will have 90 days to process it. Tom Lai, the assistant director of the community development agency, said there are strict telecommunications regulations governing the proposed towers. One aspect of the application particularly riled community members: a crude map showing numerous other proposed sites for new facilities, including one roughly in Point Reyes Station and the other near the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Mr. Bereket clarified that AT&T’s proposal is just for the site in Tomales, and that listing possible future sites was a requirement of the application process. The company would have to submit a separate application if it planned to pursue any of the other sites down the line. Local concern over the health impacts of cellular technology remains high. On Dec. 8, nearly 100 people convened at the Point Reyes Community Presbyterian Church for a discussion about it, citing AT&T’s plans for new towers. Panelists included Dr. Cindy Russell, the executive director of Physicians for Safe Technology; Dr. Magda Havas, a professor at Trent University in Canada; and Ellen Markers, the founder and executive of the California Brain Tumor Association.