Carmel Valley board approves new faux tree wireless facility

The Carmel Valley Community Planning board at its April 27 meeting at the Carmel Valley Library.
(Karen Billing)

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board approved another new wireless facility on the Grace Point Church campus at its April 27 meeting.

AT&T’s 45-foot tall faux broadleaf tree aims to provide improved and dependable coverage to the local community.

This was the board’s second time reviewing the project, hearing it first at the March meeting and requesting more visuals of what the faux tree will look like at the church lot off Del Mar Heights Road and on Hayford Way. The vote was 7-2 in favor with board members Breda Nicolas and Debra Lokanc opposed. Lokanc did not like the allowance of a 10-foot variance and Nicolas had concerns about the visual impact on nearby residences.

Harold Thomas of AT&T’s consultants MD7, said the tree will have no visual impairments to the community, situated next to the parking garage and meant to blend with the existing 30-feet high vegetation. The tree will include 12 antennas housing nine remote radio units and an equipment enclosure underneath the parking garage. Initially, they had proposed a mono-eucalyptus but the broadleaf tree was determined to provide better concealment of the antennas.

The tower will also implement the AT&T software known as FirstNet, a nationwide communications network created for first responders to stay connected during an emergency. Thomas said this offers a community safety benefit given that 80% of 911 calls are now made from wireless devices.

Last August, the board approved a 60-foot-tall faux monopine for Dish Wireless on the Hayford Way site, toward the back of the parking lot. There is also an existing 30-foot tall Verizon tower on the site. According to Thomas, they could not reach an agreement to co-locate with the tower owner.

During his comments, board member Jeffrey Heden said the board is all in favor of enhancing the communications process, especially emergency services, but they wanted to ensure that it matched and looked like the surrounding trees. Board Chair Frisco White noted that it is a fake tree and it will look fake.

“This is providing us a service,” remarked Barry Schultz, vice chair. “We as a community all have homes, we all use this…The tree is not going to look like a tree but at the end of the day, given what the service that this provides and how our society is focused on it, this is the least intrusive thing I can think of.”