Thursday, September 21, 2006

Column preview

Here is the column I've submitted for next week's Ross Valley Reporter.

New Economic Development Committee: The Town Council decided at its September 9th Strategic Planning Meeting to create a Fairfax Economic Development Committee, and I have agendized the issue for the upcoming October 4th Council Meeting. The Council considers this initiative to be so critical to the financial health of the Town that all five Councilmembers would sit on the Committee, along with a select number interested residents and local business owners. With Measure F set to sunset in less than four years, the Economic Development Committee would provide an important hands-on forum to assist the Council in establishing and promoting a long-term strategic financial plan for the Town.

Nextel/Sprint Neighborhood Meeting Held: On September 18th, a meeting was organized by Sprint/Nextel to discuss placement of a mini-telecommunications installation on the roof of 6 School Street Plaza to improve Nextel coverage for the downtown area. Nextel brought a 3D topographical model showing the terrain and hills of Fairfax to explain the challenges of cell phone coverage in our area. Two years ago Nextel applied for a permit to install a cell tower on the Fairfax Theater rooftop -- a proposal that was not well received by the local residential community. Because of controversy, Nextel’s objective is to compromise and use lower frequencies well below FCC guidelines.

Approximately 12 residents were in attendance with good representation from all sides of the issue. Discussion included the need to keep the sites away from homes and toward the hilly areas around Fairfax that are not populated. We also addressed a revised telecommunications ordinance which is still at the Planning Commission level, and the possibility of cell site installations taking place on Town-owned land. The Town could benefit from the revenue and also impose conditions that private property owners may not -- for example, requiring that the cell company allow other companies to place antennae on the site. Shared sites could keep the total number of sites down, and concentrate the antennae on Town-owned land. We also noted that the new ordinance could give the Town the first right of refusal when a company comes in with an application for a cell site.

From what was shared at the meeting, a cell site seems possible in or near Fairfax if it meets a list of strict criteria to be specified in the ordinance. In general, the meeting was a step in the right direction and all sides were willing to engage in constructive discussion.

FEMA Update: While we are receiving payments toward some of our FEMA projects, it looks like we will be appealing six projects that FEMA has denied in part or whole. Three of these denials concern Town buildings for disallowance of Americans with Disabilities Act required upgrades. Furthermore, FEMA has not yet approved the project worksheets we submitted on Creek Road Bridge, Cascade Drive Storm Drain, and Peri Park Pedestrian Bridge, pending further environmental review by the federal agency. We have been in contact with the State Office of Emergency Services (OES) Public Assistance Officer to assist with facilitating these issues. On the issue of flood insurance, we still have a $120,000 claim outstanding on Town Hall as well as approximately $68,000 on the Fire Station.