A previously rejected cell tower in Redmond was approved Tuesday, after the city found that changes made to the original plan would not be an eyesore for neighboring residents.
The Verizon cell tower application was accepted by a unanimous vote of the council after city staff reported the new proposal met the standards required for approval.
Verizon’s original application in February 2016 was denied because the tower didn’t blend into the neighborhood on NW Hemlock Avenue. The tower was rejected because the cell tower was in the center of the lot without any attempts to conceal or camouflage it.
Homeowners in the area had voiced their concerns that the 74-foot-tall unconcealed tower would be an eyesore.
The new design, however, didn’t win over everyone.
“A cell tower is a cell tower. I still do not think that they are compatible in the neighborhood,” said 74-year-old Redmond resident Kathryn Fiero at Tuesday’s meeting. “There are other locations for these without being right in a neighborhood.”
Fiero lives on NW 28th Street and is no further than two blocks from the site approved Tuesday, she said. Cell towers stick out “like a sore thumb,” Fiero said, even though cell companies attempt to dress them up like pine trees.
Letters written in opposition of Verizon’s application in 2016 included one from Fieldstone Crossing Homeowners Association that requested “the cell tower not be approved unless it is installed using camouflage.” According to the letter from the homeowners association, the original proposal would have “a negative appearance for the surrounding home and land owners.”
The proposal approved Tuesday by the City Council includes a reduced height, a revised location and extensive camouflage solutions.
The new tower will now be 70 feet tall, including 6 feet of tree camouflage at the top. The proposal will also move the tower to an area that is already populated by mature trees to limit the impact on the surrounding views.
In addition to the concealment screens at the top of the tower, Verizon was also tasked with the design of the equipment shelter at the base of the site. The shelter was given a residential look to accommodate for any future growth in the land zoned for future residential growth.
“It’s actually a higher design than we typically design, but we were determined to open up the dialogue on what we could do,” said Mike Connors, who represented Verizon at the meeting. “City staff worked diligently with us on the deficiencies they saw.”
The city’s 2016 decision to reject the proposal was appealed by Verizon, and city staff was able to work with project planners to create an optimal solution.
The revised staff findings, as explained by Planning Manager Deborah McMahon and Senior Planner Sean Cook, found that the changes made to the original proposal satisfied the criteria set by the city.
“All the material we had based our denial on has been met,” McMahon said.
Two conditions interwoven into the approval of the project pertained to the ability to conceal both the tower and the equipment shelter.
The landscape in the new site location is required to be maintained and dead trees will need to be replaced. The concrete building is also required to meet criteria for a house, and cannot use barbed wire in its perimeter.
“It’s not going to look perfectly like a tree — that’s hard to do — but we’ve done the best we could do,” McMahon said. “This satisfies the need for the tower while still satisfying criteria set by the city.”
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