RANCHO SANTA FE — A recent Town Hall meeting organized by the Rancho Santa Fe Association served as a platform for Covenant members to express their point of view regarding potential 95-foot cell towers in their neighborhood. After American Tower Company (ATC) made their presentation on proposed towers at the San Diego County right-of-way locale at La Glorieta and RSF Association owned sites at Via de Fortuna and Lago Linda, voices of opposition then emerged.
According to RSFA manager, Bill Overton, he received a call from a concerned group of Covenant members asking if they could be on the agenda. And they were invited.
The “Concerned RSFA Members Group” was comprised of S. Todd Neal, Ann-Marie Weller, Lisa Bartlett, Susan Foster, Laurel LeMarie and Mark Leslie.
All took their turn at the podium.
Ann-Marie Weller was up first. She told the crowd that she has lived in the Covenant for more than 16 years and her residence was directly across the street from an intended cell tower location on Via de Fortuna.
Weller conveyed that she was on the wireless master plan committee from 2003 to 2005. So, she wasn’t opposed to improved cell service. Her concerns were about the current proposal.
After thanking the board and committees for their hard work about this topic and other issues they have addressed, Weller spoke about the California historic landmark status in RSF as well as potential property value loss if this particular cell tower project were to move forward.
“In the 1920s, Rancho Santa Fe became one of the state’s first planned communities unified by a single architectural theme, the Spanish colonial revival. In 1928, the community adopted its protective covenant,” she said.
Weller said that by referring to their community as the Covenant, it demonstrated a level of commitment that property owners undertake in the awareness of aesthetic and asset protection.
In 1989, the Covenant received California historic landmark designation number of 982. And in 2004, an amendment was issued for its cultural landscape.
“When historic properties are modified they may lose historic value and their historic designation. The 95-foot fake cell tower trees are completely disproportionate in size to anything else in the community and will have a negative impact on our cultural landscape,” said Weller, adding not to replace their signature eucalyptus trees with fake ones.
Weller wanted those in attendance to know that the RSFA board has the responsibility of preserving, protecting and maintaining property values in addition to community aesthetics.
According to Weller, she did not believe that the Association provided proper notice about the proposed tower sites. Weller went on to say that the placement of these towers would create a burden among those neighbors who have paid their dues and contributed to the community for a number of years.
“Other communities fight to keep cell towers out. Our association seems to be fighting to bring them in,” Weller said. “The fox has been invited into the hen house.”
S. Todd Neal told attendees how there were restrictions contained within their protected Covenant. He highlighted how their CC&Rs did not permit cell towers for the proposed locations.
Neal asked the board to follow the process that was required by their wireless facility’s master plan. Neal also added to include all technically feasible alternatives before any decisions were made.
“Something this important cannot be decided in darkness,” Neal said. “This cell tower plan needs to be reworked. This is a fight for everyone’s rights. No one should have a cell tower next to their home when we have alternatives, and we cannot in good conscience try to solve a community problem by imposing a disproportionate and severe harm on a limited group of homeowners.”
If the proposed plan pushed forward, Neal said, people were going to have to take action. He told the board that he wanted them to protect the interest of all Covenant members.
“I know this board has worked hard to be fiscally responsible and transparent, but it would be a very fiscally irresponsible decision to invite a lawsuit by not abiding by your own CC&Rs,” Neal said.