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Davis, California

Friday, March 1, 2024

City revokes permit to build wireless antennas

The city unanimously approved revoking permits given to NewPath Network, LLC to building wireless antenna systems.

At the Jan. 19 City Council meeting, city staff said NewPath’s construction of cell phone towers was not consistent with the city’s wireless ordinance.

According to the 421-page staff report, NewPath is not exempted from local regulation. The company is also restricted with respect to time, place and manner – including aesthetic concerns – on the locations of wireless facilities.

Poles were already installed on Linden Lane, Covell Boulevard, in front of Harper Junior High and other locations.

Some local residents said they were not informed of the construction. Consequently, they do not trust the company to build new towers in the future, even if NewPath claims they can fill cell phone coverage gaps.

Mayor Pro Tempore Don Saylor believes the community was unhappy with the manner and locations the company was placing the poles.

“The whole approach the company has taken is appalling,” Saylor said. “The company’s contention that they don’t have to abide by our ordinance is ridiculous. NewPath needs a movie about it and that movie would be called There Will be Blood.”

City staff issued the company 37 encroachments and related building permits for its proposed project, which includes 24 antenna structures on new and existing poles. There are 23 in Davis and one in another location in Yolo County.

NewPath said it had the right to build and was exempt from discretionary city review. Requests were sent through the city’s encroachment permit process and were handled by lower level administrative staff.

City Manager Bill Emlen issued a Stop Notice Order for all construction on the project on Nov. 30, 2009. On Dec. 5, 2009, Emlen rescinded all 37 permits. NewPath did not comply with the city’s Wireless Ordinance because the location of wireless facilities was not approved and may not have met location requirements.

NewPath filed an appeal on the grounds they work on all aspects of the project ensuring the design of project was acceptable and NewPath had complied with city requirements for obtaining the permits. NewPath spent over $1 million in material and construction costs and incurred contractual obligations.

Councilmember Lamar Heystek explained the complicated nature of the permit revocation process.

“We’ve been forced to endure inches of material,” Heystek said. “We’ve done our best to go through all this information and to understand it all.”

The permits violate the ordinance, which contains three categories of proposed wireless facility projects – prohibited projects, exempt projects and discretionary review projects that require a conditional use permit. Exemption is only possible if a permit is issued by the California Public Utilities Commission or the Federal Communications Commission says the antenna is exempt from local regulation.

David Greenwald of the blog “The People’s Vanguard of Davis” said he does not trust the company or the process it went through.

“I do think at a future council you need to “agendize” and find out what went wrong,” David Greenwald said at the meeting. “That is something that needs to be addressed at a future meeting. There should be no action taken.”

Councilmember Sue Greenwald believed the staff report was well organized.

“I’m happy to hear that we can do the application in a more organized fashion, so the company can get what they need to get,” Greenwald said at the meeting. “It’s important to remember to stay consistent with the ordinance though.”

At a future meeting, the city will decide on whether already-built towers should be kept intact and whether the company should be given a permit for building more towers.

ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached city@theaggie.org.


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