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P&Z gives nod to KRSN antenna deal

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Local radio station finally gets the green light to erect 170-foot tower on the Hill

By Carol A. Clark

There was a lot riding on the outcome of Wednesday’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

KRSN co-owners Gillian and David Sutton vowed to close the radio station if their fourth attempt in four and a half years to obtain a special use permit and site plan approval for a 170-foot antenna was denied.

Applause and cheers broke the tense silence from the audience packed into council chambers as the seventh commissioner in a row voted yes.

KRSN had unanimous approval to erect its radio tower near Los Alamos Middle School on Hawk Drive.

David Sutton was elated by the ruling.

“Four and a half years and nearly seven hours later — we finally did it,” he said.

P&Z Vice Chair Greg Kendall and Commissioner Marie Wolff recused themselves; Kendall because he will become a paid employee of the station soon and Wolff because she lives near the proposed antenna site.

KRSN has been out of compliance with FCC rules since 2005,  before the Suttons purchased the station out of bankruptcy. The current antenna is in White Rock, which the FCC does not consider to be part of Los Alamos. The FCC has granted the Suttons extensions but that wasn’t going to continue much longer, Gillian Sutton said.

“We want to give special thanks to our attorney George Chandler, our architect Jeannette Barras and Realtor TJ Taub,” Gillian said. “The time and professional services they provided us made this antenna permit possible. The community support has been awesome – the room was still full after midnight for a meeting that started at 5:30 p.m.”

The Suttons also thanked Los Alamos Public Schools. The LAPS board voted unanimously last week to lease two acres of school property to KRSN for $18,000 a year. The schools will share in revenue generated by mini perches rented on the haze gray colored antenna to cell phone companies.

A couple of residents in the Loma Linda subdivision near the antenna site spoke in opposition to the proposed site. One man lived in the vicinity when a KRSN radio tower stood nearby years ago and said it caused his house to do “magical things.”

His telephones acted as receivers, he said, making it almost impossible to hear callers because KRSN was channeling loudly through the ear piece.

“While I generally support the tower, I don’t want my toaster to start playing golden oldies,” he said. “I’m afraid.”

He asked for assurances that KRSN would rectify interference and other issues that may occur.

An expert technical witness said that at 1,000 watts, the antenna was equivalent to about 10 light bulbs and should not cause problems to home electronics in the area. He added that by law, problems must be taken care of within one year or the station could face a fine of $100,000.

Another man expressed concern that the tower would lower property values. He also asked for a “100 percent guarantee” that the antenna wouldn’t cause interference.

The expert witness said while he couldn’t give a guarantee, he had never heard of a problem that couldn’t be fixed.

Thirteen witnesses were called to testify at Wednesday’s quasi-judicial meeting. Chandler conducted the questioning similar to a courtroom setting.

“I’ve been doing this for four years and worked really hard with the county and with the schools and have gotten a lot of cooperation from all sides,” Chandler said. “I can’t tell you how hard we worked to get ready for this (meeting) tonight and it’s paid off. We had good witnesses who helped when there was nothing in it for them…we had a lot of people wanting to give statements and I had to be the bad guy and limit it to 13. We obtained more than 1,000 signatures in support of the tower and that’s been really encouraging.”

Two other items also were approved during Wednesday’s meeting included a special use permit for a three-day live music event in Camp May and a special use permit and site plan for Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church to build a 3,400 square foot church at 2000 Diamond Dr.

Anyone in disagreement with any of the P&Z rulings has 15 days to file an appeal.