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Obviously frustrated with what county officials and Templeton residents hinted was corporate thuggery by Verizon, San Luis Obispo County supervisors tentatively denied an application by the mobile phone company to build a new tower.

Verizon’s application to build cell towers and corresponding ground equipment in a residential area of Templeton was denied by the county Planning Commission on April 14. The company appealed that decision to the Board of Supervisors.

Before the Sept. 27 hearing, county supervisors had already held two hearings, but they were continued at Verizon’s request, much to the chagrin of community members.

“Verizon has been extremely manipulative throughout the entire process,” said resident Larry McNamee.

The big question for supervisors seemed to be whether denying the project could get the county sued, not whether the tower complied with county regulations. In fact, according to county attorneys, Verizon has made it clear that it will sue if its project is denied, citing the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

“There’s definitely some risk if we are drawn into litigation on this thing,” County Counsel Warren Jensen told supervisors.

Rather than deny the project, or continue the hearing—as Verizon requested again—supervisors voted to tentatively deny the project and have the company come back with an alternative site lined up for a scheduled March 27 hearing. The vote was unanimous with the exception of Supervisor Frank Mecham, who abstained from the hearing because his wife is a Verizon employee.

If built, the new tower wouldn’t expand Verizon’s wireless coverage so much as expand the company’s capacity to handle the more strenuous activity drawn by modern smart phones. However, according to a company official, the increased capacity could help the company divert traffic from other towers to ensure its coverage doesn’t suffer.

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