Proposed AT&T Wireless Communications Facility in Witter Ranch Park? You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers…

A printed memorandum was hand-delivered to homes near Witter Ranch Park during the week of March 19.

At our general meeting on March 26, 2012, we will learn about a proposal to have AT&T Mobility construct, operate and maintain a wireless communications facility at Witter Ranch Park. For greater community participation, we have arranged for the meeting to take place in the multipurpose room at Witter Ranch Elementary School starting at 6:30 PM (see the agenda).

As mentioned in prior meetings and email communications, Frank Schabarum will represent AT&T Mobility in describing the course of actions that have occurred during the time AT&T first showed an interest in the Park site to how we got to where we are now, explaining why AT&T Mobility needs this site, and talking about how the proposed project design has been uniquely crafted to integrate into the Park in what is believed to be the most suitable and positive way. The presentation will include a number of photo simulations and detailed drawings, signal maps, and an electromagnetic frequency (EMF) Report. AT&T hopes to earn our leadership’s support for the project and your participation in this process is key.

At our general meeting on January 30, it was suggested that we give community members an opportunity to provide questions to Frank that can be prepared to answer at the meeting. You are welcome to use the comments area below for that. Anticipating the most common questions, we present a Q&A as a foundation from which you are welcome to ask additional questions:

Why is it necessary to put a wireless communications facility in Witter Ranch Park? Why not another location nearby?

There is an existing AT&T tower at the corner of San Juan and Airport Roads. Unfortunately, that site is “saturated,” overwhelmed with traffic from customers. AT&T needs to build a wireless communications facility that is somewhat close to, but not too close to, that existing site. A thorough analysis of signal strength and usage, along with other factors, has led to the determination that Witter Ranch Park is the most ideal location for the new site.

What will the wireless communications facility look like?

Please attend the meeting on March 26 to see the proposed design. You will see a variety of designs including the one that WRCA Board members partnered with Frank to develop. Your feedback is very important in this step of the proposal.

Are these things dangerous? Do they cause cancer? Is it appropriate for one to be located in a park or close to a school?

There is no shortage of opinion and assumption on their safety. A neutral third party that WRCA’s board finds credible is the American Cancer Society which published an article on its Web site on the topic. We encourage you to read it prior to the meeting, but here is an excerpt that highlights the key points:

Do cellular phone towers cause cancer?

Some people have expressed concern that living, working, or going to school near a cell phone tower might increase the risk of cancer or other health problems. At this time, there is very little evidence to support this idea. In theory, there are some important points that would argue against cellular phone towers being able to cause cancer.

First, the energy level of radiofrequency (RF) waves is relatively low, especially when compared with the types of radiation that are known to increase cancer risk, such as gamma rays, x-rays, and ultraviolet (UV) light. The energy of RF waves given off by cell phone towers is not enough to break chemical bonds in DNA molecules, which is how these stronger forms of radiation may lead to cancer.

A second issue has to do with wavelength. RF waves have long wavelengths, which can only be concentrated to about an inch or two in size. This makes it unlikely that the energy from RF waves could be concentrated enough to affect individual cells in the body.

Third, even if RF waves were somehow able to affect cells in the body at higher doses, the level of RF waves present at ground level is very low — well below the recommended limits. Levels of energy from RF waves near cell phone towers are not significantly different than the background levels of RF radiation in urban areas from other sources, such as radio and television broadcast stations.

For these reasons, most scientists agree that cell phone antennas or towers are unlikely to cause cancer.

Are there any examples nearby of a wireless communications facility in a park?

There is one in South Natomas at Northgate Park. That facility was constructed in the mid 1990s (Source). Another example is George Sims Park in South Sacramento which had a facility built a few years ago (Source). Both generated many thousands of dollars for park improvements. There are surely many others.

What about other service providers besides AT&T? Can another carrier use the facility (sublease)?

Our city now has a policy in place that requires all new wireless communications facilities to be engineered to handle two service providers. AT&T would be the primary service provider of this facility, but it is expected that a second carrier would add its equipment to the site in the future.

What’s in it for us?

WRCA’s board is committed to working closely with Vice Mayor Angelique Ashby’s office to ensure revenue generated by lease payments for the facility is channeled back into our community. Exactly what that dollar amount is or what it would pay for has yet to be determined. Witter Ranch Park has a number of features in its master plan that have not yet been built, so one possibility is that the funds be used to finish the park earlier than would otherwise happen. If you are interested in participating in a working group that will propose how funds from lease payments should to be used to benefit our community, please contact the board.

What happens next? How long will the process take? If approved, when will construction begin?

There are a number of phases that line ahead on this project, during which it is conceivable that the brakes could be applied at any of the phases. They include:

  • Formal Special Permit application submittal to the City of Sacramento Planning Division
  • A public hearing before our city’s Planning Commission
  • A city council hearing and vote

It is estimated that it may be up to a year or more from now before the project would be completed.

If you have additional questions that you would like Frank to be prepared to answer at our meeting on March 26, please “Leave a reply” below no later than March 23.

10 comments to Proposed AT&T Wireless Communications Facility in Witter Ranch Park? You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers…

  • M V

    All I can say is thank God my kids don’t go to that school. Do AT&T workers send their kids (Guinea pigs) to schools with these towers?

    • Keith Sharward

      Perhaps you missed it in the report, but the American Cancer Society published a paper stating “most scientists agree that cell phone antennas or towers are unlikely to cause cancer.” Is that what you are concerned about? If you can cite a source supporting your concern, that would be very helpful.

  • Courtney Cucchi

    Hello all,
    I’m sorry I was unable to attend the meeting last night, I was working. I would love to hear what was discussed, is there someplace I can view it? The tower doesn’t bother me, especially if it can move our park plans forward. I’m also an ATT customer and would love to have better service in my home.
    Thanks for sharing the information.

  • Valerie

    How and when can I vote on the proposed AT&T cell phone tower at Witter Ranch park?

  • Frank Schabarum, AT&T Mobility Representative

    Mr. Meagher and Sharward,

    The original AT&T Mobility Search Ring, as disclosed and shown at the March 26th WRCA meeting and presentation, was pin-pointed at the area between Duckhorn Drive and the I-5 Freeway and Arena and San Juan Roads. This Search Ring was designed by the AT&T Mobility radio frequency engineers from a desk top using a soft ware program without the benefit of knowing the status of properties from field research. It is my responsibility to present candidate sites to the radio frequency engineers based on my field research and what I believe are viable candidates when considering a candidate site’s lease-ability, zone-ability and construct-ability.

    The subject properties on both sides of the I-5 Freeway between Arena and San Juan Roads are zoned for low rise commercial purposes. The properties are comprised of parcels that are much larger than the 20′ x 20′ (400 square feet) lease area we propose to lease from the City of Sacramento at Witter Ranch Park. It is my belief and experience that the owners of these properties would be unwilling to encumber and limit the future development design and use opportunities for these properties with a much smaller lease opportunity to AT&T Mobility. The same could be said for bringing power, telephone service and access to a smaller use site versus the need for a general plan for bring the same property improvements to a larger development.

    I should also add it is common practice for the wireless industry to lease property in lieu of buying property to establish wireless communications sites. This practice allows the wireless companies to conserve capital so they can build more sites to support improve services to the customers.

    As I explained during the presentation, I submitted Witter Ranch Park as a valid candidate because it was the closest improved property to the middle of the Search Ring. Most importantly, I submitted the Park because it had existing structures we could use as a collocation opportunity whereby we could swap out an existing light standard/vertical structure thus eliminating the need to add another vertical structure to the neighborhood. WRCA leadership indicated that concept was unlikely to receive community support since the existence of the field lights at Witter Ranch Park is controversial and there have been community discussions about requesting they be relocated to community park close by. When it became evident the field lights may not be permanent fixtures in the park, we began exploring alternative designs.

    Frank Schabarum
    AT&T Mobility Representative

  • Bruce Meagher

    Hi there. I drove by the tower at 3310 Airport rd this afternoon. There is a concrete wall, 40′ x 40′ x 8′ high with a trailer/shed within and the 60′ tower. Are they proposing the same at Witter Park? If so where? Next to homes near Groth circle or Chimney rock way? I think not. For a structure like this they need to be far away from the Park and School, like I said before close to I-5 on either side of the freeway take their pick. Let’s not knuckle under to this proposal…!! Why is it they don’t disclose “The Plan” with artist’s conceptions prior to the meeting time? “A thorough analysis of signal strength and usage, along with other factors, has led to the determination that Witter Ranch Park is the most ideal location for the new site.” …Baloney!! And I could care less about At&T customers.

    • Keith Sharward

      Bruce, the board has worked for a year with AT&T on a design that looks nothing at all like the industrial-style facility you see on San Juan Road at Airport Road.

      We will post the drawings and photosimulations on our Web site after the meeting. We made a conscious decision to unveil the renderings at the meeting with community members present so that the full story can be told and all of the available information is available, with the applicant available to answer questions and address any concerns that arise.

      I think and hope you will be surprised by the design. It honestly looks nothing at all like a cell tower.

      Try to keep an open mind until you see the proposal for yourself and have all of the information on Monday evening. If you are not in favor of it after that, then you’ll have the opportunity to weigh in with that perspective and it will be taken seriously.


      I respectfully request that remaining comments be questions to pose to Frank so that he has opportunity to research and prepare an answer. We want to minimize “we’ll get back to you” type answers.

  • Bruce Meagher

    Why wouldn’t the tower be built off of Duckhorn drive [and much nearer to I-5] as opposed to being built near a elementary school and dense single family housing?

    AT&T should have to buy raw land and make their own utility improvements since this tower only benefits them.

    • Keith Sharward

      That’s a good question, Bruce, and I know Frank is prepared to answer this one during his presentation.

      Also, I wouldn’t be too quick to conclude that AT&T is the sole beneficiary in this proposal. There community stands to benefit as well, both in terms of how the proceeds from the lease would pay for improvements, not to mention the improvement in service for AT&T customers and customers of whatever other carrier would likely eventually sublease the facility, and other things that the community will learn about.

      Thanks for posting the question and feel free to ask others.

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