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Telecommunications tower

This photo simulation shows how a distant telecommunications tower on a ridge top would look from Highway 128 south of Lake Berryessa. Napa County believes a plain tower is less visually intrusive than a tower disguised as a 93-foot-tall pine.

Napa planners: It’s a cell tower, not a tree

Napa County decided the best disguise for a planned telecommunications tower along remote Highway 128 south of Lake Berryessa is no disguise at all.

The Napa County Planning Commission approved allowing AT&T to build a 64-foot-tall monopole telecommunications tower about two miles from Monticello Dam. The tower will be on a hill with an elevation of about 1,400 feet.

Napa County had to decide what the new cell tower would look like. County law requires telecommunication towers to blend in with the landscape so they are “effectively unnoticeable.”

AT&T offered to build a 93-foot-tall tower that looks like a pine.

The hilltop location isn’t a pine forest and a simulated photo view from Highway 128 of this would-be stealth tower shows what is obviously a fake tree towering over shrubs and brush.

Telecommunication companies have camouflaged cell towers as water towers, steeples, flag poles, pines, palms and cactuses, but apparently not as the chaparral needed in this case.

Napa County decided the best choice is a plain pole with antennas. Without the need for faux foliage tapered in a certain way, the tower need only be 64 feet tall. The tower will have a smaller silhouette against the sky than the pine.

“I do believe this design alternative is least impactful on the viewshed, given the terrain and the circumstances,” Planning Commissioner Michael Basayne said.