Telecommunications giant AT&T took another hit from the Tucson City Council this week.
The council unanimously voted Tuesday to deny placing a 70-foot cell tower disguised as a palm tree on the north side of 25th Street just west of 3rd Avenue.
It is the third AT&T cell tower in as many months the council has nixed.
The previous two towers would have been at a churches near East Fort Lowell and North Country Club roads and near East 22nd Street and Country Club. They were turned down in August.
Although the towers have just recently been formally denied, AT&T already filed suit against the city in federal court in July claiming the city violated a portion of the Telecommunications Act by failing to rule on its cell tower applications within the statutory deadline.
The city disputes the company's claims.
The tower dust-up centers around the recent explosion of cellphone, Ipad, and other wireless device use in the home.
As a result, coverage gaps are popping up in residential areas.
In response, companies, like AT&T, are seeking to move towers into these areas to close those gaps.
“We have to realize that the reason cell companies are moving their towers closer and closer to residential areas is that we as consumers are driving the demand right into our living rooms,” said Councilman Steve Kozachik. “The towers aren't so much about gaps in coverage as they are gaps in capacity.”
But cell towers near homes cause many residents blood pressure to spike.
Furthermore, city codes and regulations haven’t kept up with the times.
A primary reason for the council’s rejection for the towers stem from the city lacking a current policy to handle these new requests.
And that could soon become a problem.
While the city can now deny a tower on a number of grounds, a 2012 law gives the federal government the authority to override local municipalities and give more leeway to companies and where they want to place their towers.
The law has yet to take effect.
So the city council directed staff Tuesday to start working on specific tower standards in an attempt to retain some autonomy.
“Before the federal government steps in front of us, we need to have things in place so we can maintain control of this,” Kozachik said.