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New cell tower coming to town
Pictured above is a representation of what the proposed 70-foot tall pine tree covered cell phone tower will look like. - photo by Photo Contributed
The new tree soon to go up near the corner of North Olive Avenue and East Minnesota Avenue isn’t a tree at all, in fact.
It may look like a pine tree, blending in among several 50 to 60 foot tall trees currently on the premises of the Sierra Vista private school and Seventh-day Adventist church lot, but the 70-foot tall pine approved by the Planning Commission on Thursday is, in fact, a cell phone tower.
Owned by Black Dot Wireless and AT&T Mobility, the new tower will bring much of Turlock — including Emanuel Medical Center — from, “bad coverage to good,” according to Black Dot Wireless’s Fred Ritter. Both AT&T voice and data coverage will be provided from the cell tower, while two additional providers could add antennas to the tree in the future.
“AT&T needs improved coverage in that area, as you can tell from their propagation map,” Ritter said to the Planning Commission on Thursday evening. “That center part of the city is weak in coverage because it’s surrounded by cell sites, but they’ve never been able to get one in that area.”
The Planning Commission rejected a cell phone tower application in 2006, planned for the same neighborhood, which was 15 feet taller than the tower approved on Thursday. The 2006 site also lacked mature trees to screen the proposed tower.
The new tower fully complies with Turlock Municipal code requirements that cell phone towers be camouflaged. Some existing towers in Turlock are disguised as flag poles, palm trees, and water towers.
“We’ve been pretty vigilant in saying if it doesn’t look right, it’s not going to happen,” Planning Commission Chairman Mike Brem said.
The City received only one written complaint about the proposed tower. No Turlockers were present at Thursday’s meeting to speak against the project.
Planning Commissioner Soraya Fregosi expressed concern that emissions from the tower may be hazardous, but Planning Manager Debbie Whitmore informed the commission that Federal law barred the denial of cell tower applications due to health effects. Ritter cited numerous FCC studies that indicate cell towers pose no hazard.
The commission unanimously approved the proposal.
“I think it’s nice, it blends in perfectly, and as long as the other trees stay there, I have no problems with that,” Commissioner Nick Hackler said.

Ex-Commissioner Williams returns
The Planning Commission looked to recognize the service of recently departed Planning Commissioner Aben Williams on Thursday, but found that they may soon be welcoming Williams back to the board.
“It’s with mixed emotions that I get to do this,” Planning Commission Chairman Mike Brem said, “because this planning commissioner was here one day and then gone the next.”
Williams served as commissioner and an alternate from 2007 to 2009, before a new job abruptly forced his move to Oregon before the July commission meeting. Williams has since accepted another new post, back in Turlock, and has made an offer on a house in town.
As he received a plaque to commemorate his service, Williams expressed his desire to rejoin the commission as an alternate, should the Turlock City Council approve.
“Oregon’s nice, but it’s not Turlock,” Williams said. “It pretty much rains.”
“… I’m back and I’d like to sit at the little table.”
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.