Forest Park subdivision residents got an early Christmas present Monday when the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a request by Arizona Public Service to move a proposed communication tower out of their neighborhood.
Assuming a minor legal hurdle can be cleared, the scaled back 50-foot tower will now be located on town property at 1100 N. Falconcrest Drive off Airport Road. APS had originally proposed erecting a 150-foot tower in the parking lot of its service center at 400 West Longhorn Road.
When several residents who live west of that facility objected to the tower at a recent planning and zoning meeting, mostly for aesthetic reasons, the commission rejected the proposal. APS appealed the decision to the Payson Town Council, which referred it back to planning and zoning without taking action.
The utility company then came up with the alternate site which, because it's at a higher elevation, allows the shorter tower to be erected. The higher tower was needed at the Longhorn site to clear a nearby hill with a large water tank.
"Microwave antennas must have an unobstructed line-of-sight view of the remote transmitter/receiver site to provide highly reliable signals under all weather conditions," said Paul Bott, manager of energy delivery solutions for APS's parent company Pinnacle West.
APS is in the midst of a major improvement project to the Preacher Canyon substation east of Payson, which serves as the conduit of electrical power to the town and the rest of the Rim country. The company says it needs the tower to improve power line protection on the major transmission lines to the Preacher Canyon substation.
A 100-foot tower for bringing wireless digital communications to the Rim country was recently installed at the Falconcrest site by Crown Castle International, the source of the legal issue that still needs to be resolved. The town apparently has a deal with Crown Castle that stipulates towers built by any other entity must allow others to purchase space on them.
While Town Attorney Sam Streichman is reviewing the contract with Crown Castle, an APS spokesperson doesn't anticipate any problems.
"They'll either say there is no requirement for co-location or that we have to allow co-location," Linda Vanderbeck, Information Services Project Manager for APS, said. "We'd rather not, but believe we can manage it because we will have control over the tower."
The commission will take a last look at the proposal at its Jan. 7 meeting, at which time Streichman is expected to announce his findings. Community Services Director Bob Gould also is not concerned about the final outcome.
"I don't think we have the right to tell APS it has to do this, but it's not my call," Gould said.
APS would like to have the self-supporting lattice tower and accompanying 120-square-foot communications building operational by March or April in time for peak-power demand in the summer months.
"(The new tower) is the spinal cord of the power system," Bott said. "If we lose communications, we lose the power system."