Residents were eager to hear the Rancho Santa Fe Association Board’s next move regarding cell coverage at the March Board meeting Thursday. The meeting came three days after a community Town Hall where residents had an opportunity to present their concerns and learn about the proposed plan from representatives of American Tower Corporation (ATC).
Board President Ann Boon issued a statement citing an “overabundance of enthusiasm” as cause for what was perceived as moving too quickly and announced they will endeavour to re-examine a path forward:
“Neither the manager nor the representatives from ATC presented the Board’s position accurately or fully to our satisfaction [at Monday’s Town Hall]. Nevertheless, we listened to you carefully. We will incorporate what we heard into our process as we move forward.”
Technology Committee Chair and Board Director Philip Wilkinson added, “The committee recommends that we respond to the feedback we received and step back from the current plan of pursuing 90-foot towers in the ranch and consider additional alternatives that may be better suited for the community.”
Wilkinson pointed out that the committee will revisit the option of upgrading the Ranch’s current Distributed Antenna System (DAS) in spite of expert recommendations citing higher cost, poor signal propagation over large distances, and lack of comprehensive carrier coverage. Cost estimates for upgrading the DAS in the Ranch, according to the Board, have been in the $10-$20 million range.
In conclusion, he clarified that the current fiber-optic broadband Internet negotiations will continue unabated. An ancillary benefit to broadband Internet access in members’ homes could potentially improve cell phone reliability in the future.
The challenge now facing the Technology Committee is how to best further investigate the improved cell coverage and come up with a plan that is more agreeable to members who may live near potential cell site locations. There will likely be significant costs associated with additional due diligence in identifying and researching the best path forward that could have been assumed by ATC, but may now fall on the Association itself.
Mike Licosati, Board Director and member of the Technology Committee, explained part of the rationale behind crafting an agreement with ATC was, “So we could save ourselves significant expense in moving forward to meet a community need.”
Nevertheless, Licosati agreed that the Technology Committee should redouble its efforts to identify alternative solutions.