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Camouflaged Cell Tower Takes Heat, Gets Redesign

A California town south of Oakland has found a new reason to dislike a cell tower. It’s not the fact that it is located next to a public park or down the street from a church and an elementary school. Residents of Castro Valley complained the 60-foot structure, which was designed to look like a Cyprus tree, instead resembles something more phallic in nature, according to the Atlantic Cities.

Nate Berg’s article in the publication even has the playful headline, “Is That a 60-Foot Cell Phone Tower, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?”

“In a recent article, I bemoaned the lack of appreciation we give cell phone towers despite their increasingly crucial role in our highly connected lifestyles so dependent on information accessible whenever and wherever we want it,” Berg opined. “While it’s nice to see that some extra attention is being paid to this important infrastructure, it’s a little disappointing – though not particularly surprising – that it all boils down to a dick joke.”

The public’s reaction was not lost on the tower owner, T-Mobile, which engaged in several meetings with the county and park personnel during the last six months. Additionally, T-Mobile invited the camouflage vendor, Solar Communications International, out to look at the tower and give some ideas on how it could be redesigned to look more like a Cyprus tree.

“The county came to us and we wanted to be very cooperative with them,” Rod De La Rosa told AGL Bulletin. “It was a very constructive process of discussing what they were looking for in terms of making the tower look more like a Cyprus tree.”

The vendor came up with concept proposal, which was submitted to the county. After some back and forth, a new design was approved.  Crews then redesigned the tower to improve its appearance.

De La Rosa isn’t so sure that any type of camouflaging is effective. “I think we had it right a long time when they looked like a steel monopole,” he said. “When you try to make a tower look like something different, you call more attention to it.”

Tower Proposal Passes Muster with Court

A panel of judges has ruled in favor of a 195-foot cell tower proposed by Pegasus Tower and Open Range Communications in Cambria County, Pennsylvania, according to the Tribune-Democrat.

The companies had been appealing a decision made by the township’s supervisors and zoning hearing board against the planned monopole.

In a 16-page opinion, the court ruled that the tower construction should be approved because a public hearing was not held within 60 days before the application was rejected by the township supervisors.

It’s not over yet. The judges instructed the town’s supervisors to explain in writing why the township does not have authority to grant special exception of a conditional use in an area zoned for conservancy.

Additionally, Pegasus and Open Range asserted that the current ordinance does not provide guidance for cell tower siting. Accordingly, the court ordered the township zoning hearing board to issue a decision on whether the current zoning ordinance is exclusionary.

Brazilian Tower Company Gets U.S. Investment

Peterson Partners has invested $4 million in a Brazil-based cell tower company, which will develop and build cell towers throughout Brazil. The investment was part of a larger syndicated deal led by Housatonic Partners, a private equity investment firm based in Boston, Mass.

QMC Telecom International plans to develop hundreds of cell towers within Brazil, a developing country that ranks fifth in the world in the number of mobile phones in use.

“The existing cell tower infrastructure in Brazil is fragmented and is not going to meet the country’s growing needs,” said Brandon Cope, a partner at Peterson Partners. “As Brazilians purchase more mobile devices and upgrade their existing data plans there is a growing need for more cell tower infrastructure.”

Peterson Partners already has a relationship with QMC Telecom founders Rafael Samoza and Jose Stella, who also have experience in building cell towers in Puerto Rico.

Police Nab Copper Thieves in the Act

Because of the isolated locations of many cell towers and the general lack of security, thieves are seldom caught in the act of stealing copper from the sites. In two incidents recently, suspects were caught in the act.

In Old Bridge, N.J., a man was caught by police making their rounds before he could walk away with the copper grounding plates of a tower next to the Garden State Parkway, perhaps not the most isolated tower around.

According to a story on MyCentralJersey.com, an employee of Metro RF Services, Adrienne Fernandez, was found by police at the cell site at 3 a.m. He explained that he had come back to the site to pick up a missing tool, but the authorities noticed a black bag filled with copper grounding plates in the man’s vehicle. Upon further inspection, they found damage to the cell site and missing grounding bars.

Fernandez and an accomplice, Rothley Federick, were charged with burglary by entering a locked structure, theft of movable property and possession of burglary tools, according to police.

In Broussard, La., KLFY television station reported that a man was caught stealing copper from a cell tower.

Wade Thibodeaux was posing as a tower maintenance worker and had the bad luck of being at the tower when the real tower worker came on the scene and confronted him.

Police apprehended the man shortly afterward in possession of tools and stolen copper. He is suspected of stealing copper from several other cell towers, and radio and television towers. He has been charged on seven counts of burglary in Layafette, La.

BASE Jumpers Injured Parachuting From Towers

With climbers doing their best to cling to towers every day, it is hard to understand why exactly some people choose to jump off the same towers. A man was seriously injured after attempting to parachute from a television tower at 2 a.m., Dec. 22, in Crownsville, Md., according to a report on the Washington Post Local web site.

Robert Morgan climbed the 1,000-foot Maryland public television tower, and jumped off only to have his parachute fail to open properly. Morgan and an associate were charged with trespassing. It was the second BASE jumping incident in the Washington, D.C., area last month.

A week earlier, Morgan was one of a group of people caught trespassing as a woman parachuted from the WETA public television tower in Arlington, Va., and was injured after being caught in a tree.