EL CENTRO – Locally owned Christian radio station, KGBA 100.1, was denied its Conditional Use Permit on September 23 by the Imperial County Planning Commissioners despite approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), and the Imperial County Planning Commission.
KGBA is currently trying to move its FM tower from a rented parcel to a their own ground. The land the current tower location sits on is for sale, necessitating their relocation to their own property.
The KGBA land is 1000 feet north of the tower’s current location. The land was purchased in 2004 for the purpose of eventually giving the FM tower a permanent location.
KGBA has gone through the extensive permitting process to comply with all of the current requirements laid out by the county, state, and federal agencies, according to Bob Sager, manager of the radio station. All requirements have been met with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, California Environmental Quality Act, the Imperial County Land Use Commission, and the Imperial County Planning Department.
The last hurdle for KGBA was to get a Conditional Use Permit from the Imperial County Planning Commission.
The request was denied by the commission on September 23 for pilot safety reasons, mainly because of the guy wires that support the tower, according to the minutes.
This has put the future of KGBA in a position that may threaten its existence, for without a tower they cannot broadcast.
KGBA’s only option is to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision at the Imperial County Board of Supervisors meeting. The appeal will be at their November 3 meeting.
Leaving the tower at the current location is not an option. The price of the land is cost-prohibitive for KGBA to buy and it is contaminated by years of being a salvage yard for vehicles. Besides the large price tag, whoever purchases the land will be required to clean up years of chemical contaminates in the soil, none of which the tower contributed.
KGBA manager Bob Sager expressed his concern over the whole process.
“We need to move the tower as soon as possible,” said Sager. “We want to move it to our own land, to escape the conditions we are dealing with at its current location. The contaminated soil is deteriorating the foundations of the tower and the guy-wire anchors.”
Opposition to the relocation of the tower is coming mainly from the crop duster association and a single neighboring farmer.
The farmer is question has aggressively fought the relocation. In a letter to the Planning Commission, the farmer stated that no pilot could fly within one half to one mile of any tower. According to Sager, this one-half to one-mile perimeter is not a code on any books and is only suggested by the opposing farmer.
The Imperial Valley landscape is dotted with towers that are flown around, some with guy-wires, by crop dusters and private pilots. Some farmers have radio towers and cell phone repeater towers on their farmland, which they are compensated. Sager said the crop dusters have figured out how to avoid all the other valley towers.
The crop duster association submitted a form letter to the commission that they would not support the relocation of the tower because of the guy-wire concerns. Guy-wires are tension cables designed to add stability to a free standing structure and extend from the tower out to the ground.
To appease the opposition, KGBA had the tower re-engineered to be free standing. The new tower will cost the radio station four times as much, but will alleviate the safety concerns by eliminating the need for guy-wires.
Other neighbors of the tower have no problem with the relocation of the tower, especially since the new tower will actually be safer to negotiate than the existing tower, said Sager.
Of the 28 acres of land where the new tower would be located, the tower would occupy only three acres. The rest of the land would serve as a buffer to other farmland. Highway 111 is a natural barrier to the west and with the re-engineering of the tower to be freestanding; KGBA feels that all safety concerns have been addressed.
“My feeling is that this is more than a radio station- this is a ministry that actually saves lives,” said Sager. “We have had people call and tell us that something they heard on the radio saved their marriage or even stopped them from committing suicide.”
KGBA would like to use its own land to sustain and grow its ministry in the Imperial Valley.
“We are like anyone who owns land in the Imperial Valley,” said Sager. “We just want to be allowed to use our land for our ministry. We have met all of the requirements to do so.”
KGBA is one of two Christian radio stations in Imperial Valley. It is estimated that between 2000 and 5000 listeners tune in to various programs at any given time.