Electronic Evergreen: Cell phone tower disguised as a tree planned for Truckee | SierraSun.com
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Electronic Evergreen: Cell phone tower disguised as a tree planned for Truckee

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunA cell phone tower tree on the right in Truckee is a different color than the surrounding trees. The planning commission will consider a new cell phone tower tree in the Prosser Lakes Height's neighborhood.
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A new cell phone tower, disguised as a tree, may be sprouting up in one of Truckee’s neighborhoods.

The Truckee Planning Commission tonight will consider allowing a 115-foot cell phone tree tower for T-Mobile on Barnes Drive in the Prosser Lake Heights area. The top 85 feet of the tower would look like a tree using faux branches and greenery.

While the town is confident in the aesthetics of the new tower, previous fake trees haven’t been as successful.



“When the one above Safeway came in it was a steep learning curve,” said Dennis Troy, assistant planner for the town.

Town Planner Duane Hall said that tower was the town’s first.



“We as a town did not do a good job comparing it to its surroundings,” Hall said of the blue-green tower installed around 2001.

But since then fake trees have gotten better, and the town has gotten better at making sure they blend in, Troy said.

“The towers have come a long way ” the one over by the bug station is significantly better, most people don’t know it’s there,” Troy said, describing a tower installed just north of the California Highway Patrol and Agricultural Inspection Stations on Interstate 80 in 2005.

And the one going before the planning commission has been studied and changed by town staff for over a year, Troy said.

“Originally they wanted it to be 130 feet tall, but we scaled it back,” Troy said. “We also denied two previous samples for aesthetics.”

Ultimately, the tree designs aren’t meant to be perfect matches, but should soften the visual impact, Hall said.

“People who know they are tree towers can pick them out, but generally they are very successful,” Hall said.

But neighbors of the proposed project on Barnes Drive argue its issues go beyond aesthetic.

“The local concern is over visibility from our houses on Alder Hill ” it will definitely affect property values,” said Bob Fink, a nearby resident.

A home sale recently fell through when the potential buyer found out about another tower within 2,000 feet, Fink said.

“Some studies show a cancer risk within 2,000 feet,” Fink said.

Beyond those local impacts, Fink said he believes the tower doesn’t meet town policy, which requires combining similar uses where impacts already exist.

“They are building a brand-new facility and haven’t proven they can’t use another facility, like the one on Beacon Hill,” Fink said.

The cell phone tower tree will go before the planning commission tonight at 6 p.m. at Truckee Town Hall.


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