COCHISE COUNTY, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Residents in an unincorporated area of Huachuca City will keep their Internet and cell phone services following the approval of a replacement communications tower by the Cochise County Planning & Zoning Commission.
Home owners expressed concerns about losing what they described as their connection to the outside world after Fort Huachuca initially opposed approval of the Special Use Permit due to air traffic safety concerns.
However, after applicant Eric Bueschel said he was willing to place a Federal Aviation Administration approved light on the 70-foot tower, so that it can be more easily identified by pilots, the Fort's representatives withdrew their objection.
At its monthly meeting on Wednesday, the commission heard Bueschel inherited a tower after purchasing property on E. Adams Road, Huachuca City, earlier this year. It was erected by the former owner and provided Internet service for the surrounding neighborhood.
The tower collapsed during a storm in August and when Bueschel contacted the County's Development Services Department to replace it, it was discovered no permits had been obtained by the previous owner.
Following Bueschel's submission of the Special Use Permit, Development Services received several letters and emails of support from local residents, with some stating they relied on the Internet service for their home-based businesses and had no viable alternative due to the rural nature of the area.
The application was also supported by Steve Clark, owner of Sierra Vista-based Clark Information Systems, who installed a smaller, temporary tower following the storm to return Internet service to the neighborhood. He will continue to meet that need through the new tower.
Carol Thompson, Fort Huachuca's Airfield & Airspace Manager, said the military installation was unaware the previous tower had existed and objected to its replacement because of concerns with airspace encroachment.
Bueschel's property sits outside of the post's Hubbard Landing Zone, used for UAV and pilot training, but lies in the flight path of aircraft, she said.
"We're talking about flight safety," she said. "We understand the criticality of the Internet service, but it's a concern for the people that fly at Fort Huachuca."
Deputy Garrison Commander Christopher Ferris said the Fort was willing to work out a solution with Bueschel and suggested a light could fix the air safety problem.
"We want to see if we can come to a mitigating strategy that will allow them to have communications and for us to be able to see the tower," he said.
After Thompson confirmed the light would be acceptable, the commission unanimously approved the application for a Special Use Permit, on condition an FAA compliant obstruction light be installed.