3rd Dist. Supervisor Neil Derry
3rd District Supervisor Neil Derry (File Photo)
The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved an application from a Spanish broadcasting company to erect a 43-foot-tall radio antenna atop a mountainside at Wildwood Canyon State Park in Yucaipa.

The board voted 4-0, with Supervisor Janice Rutherford absent, to deny an appeal by the grass-roots group Citizens for the Preservation of Rural Living (CPRL) to block the project, paving the way for Oxnard-based Lazer Broadcasting, Inc. to finally press forward with its plans.

Tuesday's action ended a 5-year battle between Lazer Broadcasting and opponents of the project, which include the city of Yucaipa and the roughly 17,000 Yucaipa and Oak Glen residents comprising CPRL.

Opponents of the project fear placement of the antenna atop the pristine mountainside will scar the terrain and ruin the aesthetics of the park. Dozens of them appeared before the board on Tuesday urging supervisors to put the interests of their constituents before corporate interest.

"We have no problem with the radio tower, it's just where they chose to put it," said John Mirau, a Redlands attorney and CPRL spokesman. He said opponents have proposed other locations, but Lazer has been unreceptive to any of them.

For Lazer Broadcasting, which owns the 38-acre parcel where the antenna will be staked, it is an issue of property and development rights.

The broadcasting company, which owns the Redlands-based KCAL (FM 96.7), has respected the concerns of opponents and the county from the start, said David Mlyarski, an engineering consultant for Lazer Broadcasting and chief financial officer for the Inland Empire Economic Recovery Corp.

Lazer initially proposed a 140-foot tall lattice tower with a 250-square-foot equipment building and a 500-gallon propane tank to run a backup generator. The project was subsequently scaled down to an 80-foot tall lattice tower, which the Planning Commission approved in November 2008.

But CPRL appealed that decision to the Board of Supervisors, which granted the appeal, with prejudice, in March 2009. It meant Lazer would have to wait a year before refiling its application with the county.

Lazer refiled its application in May 2010, proposing the project in its current configuration.

Placement of the tower atop Pisgah Peak will expand Lazer's potential listener base from roughly 191,000 to more than 2 million in San Bernardino and Riverside counties and allow the company to broadcast from Hemet.

Though opponents have proposed other locations for the antenna, Harry Martin, a lawyer for Lazer Broadcasting, said location is key in order for Lazer to reach the listeners it is trying to attract.

In addition, Martin said the Federal Communications Commission has already approved the site.

Supervisor Neil Derry, who initially backed opponents of the project, said he was inclined to deny the appeal and approve the project given the changes.

"This project's changed significantly since we heard it in 2009. It is nearly half the size of the original project and the propane tank is gone," Derry said. "This is a matter of private property. I think the changes to the project are appropriate, and I am inclined to approve the project at this time."


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