The latest attempt to raise a tower against the Payson skyline a 150-foot microwave communications tower Arizona Public Service wants to erect was rejected by the Planning and Zoning Commission at its regular meeting last week.
The structure, which APS wants to locate in the parking lot of its service center at 400 W. Longhorn Road, is 50 feet higher than the telecommunications tower recently erected at the water tank site on Falcon Crest Drive off Airport Road. APS said the extra height is needed 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," Paul Bott, manager of Energy Delivery Solutions for APS's parent company Pinnacle West, said.
APS says it needs the tower as part of a program to improve power line protection on the major transmission lines to the Preacher Canyon substation that provides much of Payson's power.
"It would make Preacher Canyon capable of being fed from either the north the Cholla Power Plant or from the south the Pinnacle Peak Plant allowing the power to stay on while either direction was shut off," Bott told the commission. "Right now, if there's a fault on the line anywhere from Cholla, which is in Holbrook, to Pinnacle Peak, the whole line is shut down."
Bott said APS would like to have the tower 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," he said. "If we lose communications, we lose the power system."
Several residents who live west of the APS service center in Forest Park subdivision object to the tower, mostly for aesthetic reasons. Payson High teacher Larry Potvin spoke for them at the commission meeting.
"One of the things I really like about this area is that when it snows you look down at the pine trees and it's really gorgeous," Potvin said. "Now I'm going to see a 150-foot tower."
Jim Spencer, Payson district manager for APS, also lives in Forest Park, but won't be able to see the tower from his Parkwood Lane home.
"It's the people on Forest Park Drive who have the issue," Spencer said.
With three members absent, the commission voted 3-1 to reject the tower. Chairperson Ruth Craig, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said she wanted the item tabled because APS had made a last minute decision to move the tower 50 feet to the east in an effort to ameliorate the concerns of neighbors.
"The commission had no prior knowledge they moved it until Paul Bott stood up (at the meeting)," Craig said. "I wanted to see where they moved it."
She said the three commission members who voted to kill the tower felt APS should use the Falcon Crest site instead.
"(Town Manager) Rich Underkofler didn't tell us (the tower off Falcon Crest) was full until after the meeting," Craig said. "That means APS would have to build a separate tower there."
APS has appealed the commission's decision to the Payson Town Council, which will hear their case at its regular meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. Spencer, who is also a council member, plans to excuse himself from those deliberations due to a conflict of interest.
"Underkofler is now trying to get APS to allow other businesses on their tower," Craig said.
According to Bott, APS is not real excited about that option.
"People who are in the businesses of selling communications services are not as careful as we would like them to be about damaging our antennas...," he said.