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Corrales to appeal legal OK for cell tower

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 insufficient 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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