Controversial cell tower plan on church property wins approval in San Tan Valley

Posted at 10:32 PM, Jan 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-06 00:32:56-05

An 85-foot cell phone tower disguised as a pine tree won approval in Pinal County on Wednesday, against the wishes of some concerned neighbors.

"It's a Las Vegas sign, is pretty much what it is,” said Mona Miller, who lives just south of where the tower is to be built. The Verizon tower will be on the property of Berean Baptist Church in San Tan Valley near Ocotillo and Ironwood roads. 

The idea is to improve cell phone reception and reliability in the area, said Pastor Keith Gephart.

“I've had people say, 'I'm sorry, I can't hear you, you're breaking up,'" while talking on the phone from my office, Gephart said.

More development in the area of San Tan Valley requires additional cell phone service capacity, according to a letter to Pinal County sent on behalf of Verizon.

Dozens of people signed a petition against the tower. The petition was not mentioned at a Pinal Board of Commissioners meeting on Wednesday where the tower plan was approved.

Opponents to the plan had ample opportunity to voice concerns at several meetings, Gephart said.

Few opponents were at a recent planning and zoning commission meeting, Gephart said.

Miller said people in her neighborhood cannot leave work to attend such meetings.

Gephart declined to say how much the church would make from the deal, but said the money would be used to pay down building debt.