The majority of the Yuma City Council voted down the location of proposed Verizon telecommunication tower due to its vicinity to the Yuma Municipal Airport, though the Federal Aviation Administration had signed off on the project. (However, word is a changed proposal will come back before the council at its next meeting.)

Verizon was seeking to install a 78-foot tower, panel antennas, remote radio heads, surge protectors, equipment cabinets and fencing. It was to be located at 608 E. Eighth Ave. (Highway 34) north of the Eagle/CRVS convenience store and Rudy’s GTO. (The beginning of the main runway is located south on the other side of Highway 34.)

Adam Perlman of Verizon was at last week’s meeting for the conditional use consideration, which had been approved by the Yuma Planning Commission on June 27, then sent to the council for a final decision at its July 5 meeting. He said Verizon had visited with landowners of several different locations around Yuma, but settled on the proposed site because Verizon’s main objective was coverage for the Yuma community.

The FAA had determined that the tower’s height and location was not adverse to airport operations, and had sent a letter to the municipal government stating it was fine with the project. City Manager Scott Moore said the city’s airport consulting firm, Armstrong Consultants, also concurred with the FAA.

Nevertheless, concerns raised during the public hearing led to the council voting 2-3 on a motion to approve the conditional use request. Council members Jim Haag and Bethleen McCall voted in favor, while Mayor Joe Harper, Dan Baucke and Ron Swehla voted against.

The dispute seemed to center around the height of planes coming into the airport from the north. Flying protocol reportedly calls for planes to be hundreds of feet in the air at that particular spot while approaching the runway. However, Yuma citizens Rik Chance and Lynn Koenig both said the local spray planes fly much lower than that.

Chance, who has a shop right by the proposed tower site, said incoming air traffic is only 80 to 140 feet up by his estimation. Koenig said the spray planes don’t stay hundreds of feet in the air approaching the runway.

Chance said: “I’m a little amazed the council would consider a tower at the end of a runway.” He later added during the public hearing: “I don’t care who OK’ed it, I wouldn’t want it put on my head (if something bad occurred).”

Harper welcomed Verizon to Yuma, but said he wanted to go on record that he feels the proposed tower site is a real poor location. He said he just heard about it recently when concerned pilots began calling him.

Council members stressed they wanted Verizon in Yuma, but felt the company should find another location.

Perlman said the tower’s height is not much higher than nearby trees, adding Verizon had followed a lengthy process to get to this point.

Haag, who voted in favor of the conditional use, noted that whenever Viaero has put up a tower, nearby citizens have voiced concerns. He recalled presentations in the past by Viaero representatives how the towers had to be in certain spots to provide the necessary cell phone coverage. In regards to moving the tower, “It’s just not that simple,” Haag said.

Perlman proposed possibly lowering the tower by 10 feet. He asked for a continuance, explaining that starting over with another location would take more time and expense. He did not get it.

Haag brought up the issue again at the end of the council meeting. He said he fully supports the Verizon tower, and that it is not in the way of air traffic. He said he thinks it is a personal motive by some council members, using some colorful language in voicing his objection. Harper replied that it is not personal, and reminded Haag he is a council member and to tone down the “colorful metaphors.”