An effort by a private company to construct a communications tower within the village limits of Magdalena was met with resistance by the Village Board of Trustees at its meeting Monday night. At issue is a planned cell phone tower at the corner of Kelly Road and Tenth Street, which Mayor Richard Rumpf said he got wind of after receiving a letter from Vertical Bridge, the construction company.

“They are requesting a confirmation letter from the Village confirming that we don’t have zoning,” Rumpf said.

In the letter to the mayor, the construction company states it “intends to construct a wireless telecommunications facility consisting of a 199-foot tall self-support tower and associated ground equipment” at 1012 S. Kelly Road.

A schematic of the proposed cell tower on Kelly Road at Tenth Street.
Courtesy graphic

“By means of this letter, we are requesting confirmation that no planning, zoning, land use, or building permits … are required by the Village of Magdalena for the proposed Vertical Bridge wireless telecommunications facility … “ the letter says.

Rumpf said the company initially wanted to place the tower on the hill by the water tanks.

“That’s the one we referred them to, but they never came back to let the Village know that the property owner there couldn’t come to an agreement,” he said.

Rumpf then referred the Trustees to a letter from the State Historic Preservation Office, recommending to the FCC that “this project would have an adverse effect on historic properties listed or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.”

The letter contends in approving the construction, the FCC is required to comply with federal environmental statutes and regulations, citing the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

Rumpf said the recently constructed tower in town has garnered no such protests but that this tower would have a detrimental effect on the view of the mountain.

“The one the telephone company put up is much shorter, and I have not had one person complain about it. Most people didn’t even notice it was there,” he said. “This tower is going to be almost 200 feet tall, and it would probably require flashing lights.”

He conceded it would improve cell coverage, but he has not been apprised of what cell phone company would be using it.

Trustee Harvan Conrad pointed out that although the Village has no zoning ordinance, the project conflicts with the historic preservation Magdalena is known for.

“I don’t like this idea that they’re going to put this right in front of the beautiful mountain we have,” she said.

Rumpf said although the construction would be on private property, “the board has the right to file a protest and ask them to contact the Village for an alternate location. I’m bringing it to your attention to see what, if anything, the board wants to do.”

Trustee Donna Dawson moved to file a protest letter. Conrad seconded the motion.

“On this protest letter, I’d like all the Trustees to sign it,” Rumpf said.

On a roll call vote, the motion unanimously passed.

In other Village business:

  • Jocelyn Garcia of Socorro has been hired as village clerk/treasurer and will start in June.
  • Library Director Ivy Stover turned in her notice on May 3. She said she had accepted a new position in Albuquerque. “I greatly appreciate my time here at the library,” she said. “I love this library and the community and will dearly miss it. Thank you to the Board members for supporting me and the library over the past four years.” Stover’s last day will be May 27.
  • Rumpf said the recent inspection of Magdalena’s airport came back favorable. In a letter to Rumpf, the inspector noted, “The airport looks better every time I have visited. Both the approaches and the primary surface have been cleared, and the pilot’s lounge was really nice.”
  • The board approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Very Large Array to assist in emergencies like fire and accidents. “If we have a major accident, we can call out to the VLA, and they can respond with help and transport, and the other way around,” Rumpf said.
  • The board approved minor adjustments to the Village Lodger’s Tax ordinance. “We could never get good guidance on policy, but now there’s a Lodger’s Tax handbook, and we took information from that,” Rumpf said. The five percent tax is added to motel and hotel room prices for visitors staying overnight. “With that money, we can use it for advertising. The whole concept is to lure more tourists to the Village,” Rumpf said. “Mostly it’s to ‘put heads into beds,’ to get people to come and stay overnight in Magdalena.”
  • Magdalena Marshal Michael Zamora announced the promotion of Brian Waterman from sergeant to lieutenant and Deputy Paulettica Monte to corporal. “Both have proven to be a great asset to the department and have shown great diligence in performing their duties,” Zamora said. “Together, they have tallied a total of 139 citations in the past three months, an estimated dollar amount of $7,506. Great job.”