Legal Battle Over Cell Tower in Sierras

NEVADA CITY, Calif. (CN) – A married couple launched a new round in a year-long legal battle over a proposed cell tower on a “visually important ridgeline” near the Tahoe National Forest.
     Juliet Erickson and Peter Lockyer sued Nevada County and its Board of Supervisors, in Nevada County Court. They also sued the county in January this year.
     Nevada County includes parts of Tahoe National Forest. Penn Valley, where the plaintiffs live, is west of the forest, and east of Grass Valley.
     Their new complaint details the history of the proposed 48-foot high tower and claims the county violated their constitutional rights by not allowing them to build a home office that would be less intrusive than the tower will be.
     “Nevada County required that plaintiffs prepare a Management Plan, pursuant to the County Land Use Code, to analyze and demonstrate the lack of any impact of the Home Office on the designated Visually Important Ridgeline. However, the County did not require any similar Management Plan or similarly detailed analysis of the cell tower’s visual impact from CWC as a condition of approval for the project – even though the two structures would extend about the same height as the Visually Important Ridgeline,” the complaint states.
     The couple claims there is plenty of local opposition to the tower.
     “In opposition to the project, approximately fifty (50) neighboring property owners wrote to the county objecting to the adverse visual impact the cell tower would have as proposed, on a site where there were no towers already, and from which the proposed tower would project above the ridge behind it by some 59 feet, and be silhouetted against the sky as viewed from Lake Wildwood,” the complaint states.
     In their January lawsuit, the couple claimed the county violated the California Environmental Quality Act by approving the Verizon Wireless cell tower.
     The Board of Supervisors in November reported its resolution to deny Erickson and Lockyer’s appeal of the denial for their home office.
     According to the minutes, “Supervisor Beason believed the County had shown flexibility and commended staff on doing their best to assist the Appellants. He reported that he received emails both for and against the cell tower, and pointed out that there is a different requirement for a cell tower to be placed on land appropriately zoned than there is for a structure. He believed people may have gotten mixed up on the zoning laws, although there was an effort made to accommodate the community.”
     The plaintiffs seek punitive damages for civil rights violations.

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