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The tower: Is it visual pollution or equivalent of background noise?

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POSTED July 11, 2012 1:01 a.m.

Visual pollution is a buzz word that is growing in use.

It essentially says that something is ugly and therefore should not be allowed regardless of its function.

Visual pollution differs from an old-fashioned eyesore. Most people will agree fairly passionately that dead grass in a neighborhood, junked cars, broken windows, graffiti, and such constitute eyesores.

But the level of agreement starts diminishing when you start talking about things such as signs and communication towers.

I live in the Powers Tract neighborhood sandwiched between Spreckels Park and Manteca High. It definitely could not be used to shoot a sequel to Jim Carrey’s “Pleasantville” where sameness was a virtue. Cookie cutter patterns for homes and yards aren’t evident even though it was Manteca’s first post-war subdivision. And it goes without saying there are some rather rough looking properties thanks to the foreclosure crisis and a few absentee landlords who are essentially running a business. They could care less about the upkeep of their property or how it impacts the neighborhood as they are simply milking it for the maximum return.

I’d be lying if I said those properties aren’t eyesores.             

There are other things that people might contend constitute visual pollution. Among them is a fire department communications tower behind Station No. 1.

Given its height you’d think I’d be able to see it from my yard, but I can’t even though I’m just over two blocks away. A lot of that has to do with the mature trees you’re going to find in a neighborhood that turned 60 years old this year. But to tell you the truth you don’t notice because it is the equivalent of background noise. It’s there but until someone draws your attention to it you don’t realize it is there.

It’s like the water tower. Unless you make an effort to look for it, it just blends in with everything else.

That said I can appreciate those who are a bit unhappy about the 140-foot tower that the city has proposed as part of the fourth fire station going in over the next year along Lathrop Road on the edge of the Del Webb at Woodbridge neighborhood. But like the nearby cell tower to the east near the South San Joaquin Irrigation District water tank, it most assuredly will become background noise after awhile.

Ideally, the city will be able to work something out with the SSJID folks to piggyback on the existing tower assuming doing so would not impair emergency communications within Manteca and would still adequately serve the needs of the fourth fire station.

Having said that, those in Del Webb and nearby neighborhoods who are a bit unhappy they may get a 140-foot high tower to look at shouldn’t be vilified. And to make the record clear of the folks who reside in Del Webb that I’ve had the opportunity to talk with about the issue there are probably just as many who don’t have an issue with the tower.

Although I like the close knit and active community and certainly meet the age requirement I would have a hard time living in Del Webb. Anyone who knows the rules at Del Webb and has seen my front yard and how I’ve replaced all of the grass with over a hundred shrubs and trees would understand why.

Del Webb has strict property maintenance rules. It is part of the appeal. You don’t have to worry about dead grass, unkempt yards, cars parked all over the place or RVs and boats in driveways

If you visit Del Webb communities much older than the one in Manteca - Roseville at 20 years plus and Lincoln pushing about a dozen or so years - you will be impressed with now neat and new everything looks.

Manteca residents who reside in Del Webb who express concern about visual pollution have a point.

And while in the end should a 140-foot tower go next door to the neighborhood it may indeed end up being invisible as folks go about their every day routines.

The city should explore the SSJID tower option if for no other reasons than it could save money and possibly reduce the proliferation of towers around Manteca.

But if the tower has to go next to the fire station it would be hard to classify it as an eyesore as it plays an essential role in getting help to our neighbors and loved ones when it is needed the most.

 

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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