I am writing this concerning the lack of care, or understanding, expressed by the editorial board in relation to the proposed siting of a cell tower in the Alfalfa area.
I have to wonder, if you had a home in this area, would you appreciate a company locating a cell tower in front of your home? Clearly it will stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. The siting of a cell tower in front of your home reduces the value and, in fact, is required to be disclosed to any potential buyers once an application for siting is filed.
A home is a large investment for the average person. Should the commissioners ignore the county codes, the hearings officer, the investment and wishes of homeowners and constituents just so AT&T can clamor for a bigger market share?
We already have numerous options available. The cell tower applicant states there is a gap in coverage around the site. AT&T may perceive that they have a gap in their coverage (Some residents in the area with AT&T cell phones say they don’t have an issue). This doesn’t mean the Alfalfa residents have a gap in coverage, as we have many different cell service providers, wireless data suppliers, terrestrial telephone, satellite and possibly even cable in some areas.
In the 1970s, we could either be involved in the zoning process, or the county planner would zone our property without our input. I went to all the planning meetings regarding our area (Coos County then). It was explained to the residents that only around the rural center, where some small businesses were grandfathered in, would commercial zones be allowed. For example, the planners didn’t want an auto shop or store showing up on this corner and that, in an effort to preserve the rural setting and prevent urban sprawl.
Operating a small television cable system in the area, I paid particular attention to conditional use permitting for towers. It was explained to the residents in this manner. Although we wish to limit commercial property, conditional use permits may be allowed for tower siting so that a rural community can have and enjoy some of the basic services provided in urban areas.
No one at that time envisioned cell phones and towers redundantly covering the landscape. This is a far cry from basic services. If we allow multiple towers from multiple competing carriers to blanket the area, shouldn’t we go back and either eliminate zoning and let the residents create auto shops, stores, etc., wherever they want? Is there really a difference? The original intent of the conditional use permit has gotten lost. As you stated, I feel the criteria should be changed, but to give it more teeth. The words “demonstrated need” should be added to the criteria, not meaning demonstrated need for the service provider but demonstrated need for the community!
At the first cell tower meeting, about 90 Alfalfa residents were against the siting of the tower at that location and virtually no one in favor of it, other than the land owner wishing to rent the property to the tower company.
The Deschutes County codes department and the hearings officer got it right when they denied the application. The section of the code that says it best to me is the last sentence, DCC 18.128.340, which reads: “Towers or monopoles shall not be sited in locations where there is no vegetative, structural or topographic screen available.” I hope the commissioners can hold out against AT&T, protecting property values and residents’ rights to enjoy an unencumbered view.