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Bad Reception

Round two for the Fairfax cell tower

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Last spring, the Marin County Planning Commission rejected Verizon's proposal to erect a cell phone tower on a prominent ridgetop in Fairfax. Several neighbors objected to the sight pollution, EMFs and potential fire hazard of the proposed tower, and argued that Verizon had made only half-hearted attempts to find more suitable sites.

Undeterred, Verizon filed a new application and proposed another site—a mere 75 feet from the previous one, both at Boy Scout Camp Tamarancho. Less than a month after the public was made aware of it, the new cell tower was unanimously approved at a hearing on Monday.

"There is a substantial difference between the two sites," says planner Lorene Jackson, explaining that the "monopine" tower, made to appear as a tree, will be closer to a cluster of trees, the better to disguise it. Others are not so sure. "It's really just a stone's throw from the previous site," says Mark Fiore, Pulitzer Prize–winning political cartoonist and nearby resident, arguing that the tower violates Marin County's policy for protecting ridge and upland greenbelt areas.

Though commissioner Wade Holland commended Verizon's tenacity, opponents are unconvinced that Verizon seriously tried to find other sites, noting that one site was rejected on the grounds of an unreturned phone call. And while the lease agreement between Verizon and Camp Tamarancho must legally be made public, the telecom behemoth is allowed to censor the terms, which means the public may never know how much the Boy Scouts stand to profit from the deal. Determined to keep up the fight, several neighbors have vowed to chip in the $770 for an appeal, which must be filed by Sept. 24.

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