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TMCNet:  Pinole: Cell phone tower in park could face cancellation [The Oakland Tribune]

[October 02, 2013]

Pinole: Cell phone tower in park could face cancellation [The Oakland Tribune]

(Oakland Tribune (CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 02--PINOLE -- A lease with Verizon Wireless to build a cell phone tower in Pinole Valley Park could be overturned by the City Council in as little as two weeks.

The deal, approved by the council in July, had come under fire from a well-organized and vocal residents group, mostly over aesthetic and health concerns about electromagnetic waves. One member of the group, Sal Spataro, then contacted the state, questioning whether the city was violating conditions of a federal grant administered by the state Department of Parks and Recreation.

The city acquired the land that would become Pinole Valley Park in the 1970s, in part with the help of a federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant administered by the state, and has received several other grants for the park in ensuing years.

The state agency notified the city last month that the grant conditions prohibit commercial and other non-recreational uses in the park. The city could get around the ban through a lengthy conversion process that includes environmental and other studies and would require the city to acquire replacement property of similar size, value and convenience for recreational use.

The lease with Verizon is for up to 25 years, starting at $2,200 a month, on about 1,000 square feet along Adobe Road in the easternmost section of the park, where the communications giant wants to build a 78-foot-tall cell phone tower.

The state agency also informed the city that it violated grant terms when it carved out a piece of the park in the early 2000s to build the Pinole Valley fire station, which is currently shuttered.

Council members on Tuesday agreed to separate the two issues and put the cell tower lease question on the fast track, reasoning that because the antenna does not yet exist while the fire station does makes the latter a more complicated issue. The question of whether to rescind the Verizon lease is expected to be on the Oct. 15 council agenda.

Verizon has threatened to sue to hold the city to the terms of the lease, but city officials now say the discovery of the state grant conditions could change the legal situation.

Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760 or tlochner@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at twitter.com/tomlochner.

___ (c)2013 The Oakland Tribune (Oakland, Calif.) Visit The Oakland Tribune (Oakland, Calif.) at www.insidebayarea.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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