Thursday, April 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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Supervisors side with proponents of radio tower

WOODLAND — Yolo County supervisors have sided once again with proponents of a radio tower intended for the Yolo County Central Landfill northeast of Davis.

The board voted 5-0 on Tuesday to adopt the county counsel’s findings that no supplemental environmental review is required before the 365-foot tower is erected.

Supervisors originally approved the project two years ago, giving the go-ahead to Results Radio to construct a tower that would be used by UC Davis student-run KDVS as well as Results Radio station KMJE in Woodland.

Currently, KDVS broadcasts from a radio tower on Kerr Hall on campus, but it’s not tall enough to legally protect KDVS’ signal beyond the immediate area, former general manager Neil Ruud has said.

The station had been looking for an alternative since 1996.

But even after supervisors gave the radio tower the OK in 2010, delays in the FCC permitting process led Results Radio to request a one-year extension of the use permit last year.

Supervisors unanimously approved the extension in December 2011 over the objections of wildlife experts who say the tower presents a collision danger to birds, as well as residents of both Woodland and Davis who object to the white strobe lights that would be atop the tower.

But supervisors voted unanimously to do so, saying it would set a bad precedent to approve a project and a year later go back on that decision.

“It’s important when we approve a project that we send a message to businesses that they can rely on our decisions,” Supervisor Jim Provenza said at the time.

But even as work progressed on the radio tower — the foundation was constructed at the landfill, as was an accessory equipment building — opponents filed suit in Yolo County Superior Court to stop the project.

In a ruling last month, the court sided with the county on zoning issues opponents raised, as well as on opponents’ claim that the county lacked authority to extend the use permit.

But the court found that in extending the use permit, the county did not properly consider whether there was previously unavailable new information or changed circumstances since the original permit was issued that might require additional environmental review.

On Tuesday, Senior Deputy County Counsel Phil Pogledich told supervisors no additional environmental review was necessary.

“There have been no changes to the project since it was approved in 2010,” Pogledich said, adding that his staff had worked with the Department of Planning and Public Works, landfill staff and the county agricultural commissioner in analyzing the project again, while wildlife biologist Jim Estep provided an updated opinion on the tower’s impact on birds and other biological resources.

But opponents turned out on Tuesday to argue that there have, in fact, been changes to the project, as well as to the number and type of wildlife that would be endangered by the tower.

Woodland resident Christine Harlan said she and others living in rural areas north of the landfill have set aside many acres of land in order to increase wildlife in the vicinity.

“The tower area is teeming with wildlife now,” she said.

Others continued to object to the tower’s lights.

Michael Delacorte noted that area residents already have to shoulder the landfill and wastewater plant “and now along comes a radio tower and the county concludes the visual impacts are subjective. What’s next? Where does it end? Not in your back yard, but in mine.”

Residents also argued that the radio tower benefits UCD students who would move on after four years at the expense of longtime residents who would have to deal with the tower forever.

“I understand where (the students) are coming from, but in four years they move away and they won’t have to live with a strobe light in their back yard,” said Davis resident Wesley Snyder.

Renner Burkle, current general manager at KDVS, disagreed, saying many students get involved with KDVS and stay involved years after graduating.

“(And) KDVS is a huge way to integrate these people (into) the community,” he added.

Burkle also said time is running out for KDVS to benefit from the radio tower project, as its own permit will expire Jan. 15.

“Time is ticking down,” he said. “The tower will likely go up, it will get pushed back and pushed back, but it will eventually go up. The only difference is KDVS will not be on that tower. There are already large corporate stations that will attempt to move into our broadcasting area. If these stations move in, we’ll be restricted to Davis.”

Tuesday’s vote doesn’t end the matter. The lawsuit returns to court on Nov. 27 where attorney Patrick Soluri will argue on behalf of area residents that there have, in fact, been substantial changes to the project.

Pogledich, meanwhile, told supervisors Tuesday that the county has “a very good chance to prevail.”

“If the court disagrees,” he said, “we’ll have to come back to the board for further proceedings.”

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at aternus@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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