In an attempt at compromise, AT&T has offered to scale down a massive cell phone tower proposed at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Ahwatukee Foothills by making it look like a saguaro cactus, but some opponents say it's still too big.
The original plans, released earlier this month, called for erecting a 65-foot-tall cell phone array disguised as a church bell tower topped by a cross alongside 36th Street north of Knox Road on land owned by the church. However, because of neighborhood opposition, AT&T has proposed scrapping the bell tower façade and replacing it with a 45-foot-tall saguaro cactus disguise, said Kerry Hibbs, an AT&T spokesman.
"We are talking about a different design," Hibbs said. "None of this has been written in stone. We're hoping this will be a nice compromise."
Neighbors in the upscale area around the site have said the original design would have blotted out a large portion of their South Mountain views, affecting local property values.
Longtime resident Barb Yurka said she remains opposed to the new designs, as well.
"Why should my property value and the re-salability of my home be put in jeopardy for something that no one in the neighborhood who will be directly impacted by this eye sore wants?" she said.
Another neighbor, Doug Williams, said the saguaro disguise won't work.
"If it's 45 feet, that's still going to be an issue because of how tall it is," he said.
A zoning adjustment hearing on the original design was slated for Dec. 30, but AT&T was expected to ask for a continuance until early next year to accommodate the new design. The tower would need a city permit to go forward, city officials have said.
"The whole goal is to improve cell service," Hibbs said. "We try to work with cities and neighborhoods."
If the zoning administrator grants approval, neighbors would have the option of appealing the decision to the city-appointed Board of Adjustment, according to Derek Horn, assistant planning director with the city's Planning and Development Services Department.
Numerous messages left with Corpus Christi Catholic Church went unreturned.