Cor­rales to ap­peal legal OK for cell tower

Mayor plans to use me­di­a­tion first

Albuquerque Journal - - RIO WEST - BY PA­TRICK LOHMANN JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER

The Vil­lage of Cor­rales in­tends to ap­peal a fed­eral rul­ing that forces the small town to al­low the con­struc­tion of an AT&T cell­phone tower within its bound­aries.

The March 25 rul­ing by U.S. Dis­trict Court Judge Martha Vazquez stated that the vil­lage had “ef­fec­tively pro­hib­ited” any cell­phone tower con­struc­tion by say­ing the site se­lected by the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany was in­tru­sive and in­com­pat­i­ble with the vil­lage’s mas­ter plan. AT&T had ex­am­ined three other po­ten­tial sites but ei­ther deemed them in­suf- ficient to en­sure cov­er­age for ev­ery­one in the area or ruled them out for other con­cerns.

The pro­posed tower site is at the end of Academy Drive near San­dia View Academy.

AT&T ar­gued in court fil­ings that when the vil­lage’s gov­ern­ing body voted against al­low­ing the tower to be built at the end of Academy Drive in north Cor­rales, the vil­lage was “ef­fec­tively pro­hibit­ing” the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions tower from build­ing any­where, and that con­sti­tutes a vi­o­la­tion of the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Act. The com­pany said a “cov­er­age gap” ex­isted in Cor­rales, im­pact­ing emer­gency re­sponse and con­nec­tiv­ity for Cor­rales res­i­dents and oth­ers in the area.

The law­suit was filed in 2013 af­ter the vil­lage voted against the tower. Vazquez’s rul­ing stated the vil­lage vi­o­lated the act and she said she would al­low AT&T to file an in­junc­tion if nec­es­sary to go for­ward with the project.

Reached Thurs­day, Cor­rales Mayor Scott Ko­miniak said the vil­lage in­tends to file an ap­peal within the next two weeks. He de­clined to say what the vil­lage’s ar­gu­ment would be, but he said the first step in the ap­peals process is me­di­a­tion. That’s where he hopes a so­lu­tion can be reached.

“We will go to me­di­a­tion with an open mind and pro­pos­als. Hope­fully, we can re­solve this to every­body’s sat­is­fac­tion,” Ko­miniak said. “We are go­ing to work very dili­gently to make sure ev­ery­one’s in­ter­ests are rep­re­sented and that what ev­ery­one gets is fair.”

Ko­miniak said he’s heard com­plaints about cell­phone cov­er­age from Cor­rales res­i­dents, but no more than he’s heard in other ar­eas.

“I think ev­ery­one has cell ser­vice,” he said. “It’s just a ques­tion of the qual­ity of the cell ser­vice.”

AT&T em­ploy­ees con­ducted a sig­nal strength test along Cor­rales Road and found “weak and in­con­sis­tent cov­er­age in the area of the pro­posed site,” ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

Ko­miniak said if the tower were to be built, it’s pos­si­ble the vil­lage and the com­pany could find ways to dis­guise it, in­clud­ing mak­ing it look like a tree, a clock tower or a wa­ter tower.

AT&T could not be reached for com­ment.

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