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Neighbors raise concerns over cell tower plan

American’s proposed “monofir” cell tower shown against the tallest adjacent tree height.


American’s proposed “monofir” cell tower shown against the tallest adjacent tree height.

The Hood River County Planning Department is fielding inquiries and concerns from several neighbors near Westside Elementary School over the proposed installation of a 160-foot-tall commercial cell tower.

Public comment on the application will be accepted through Dec. 21, 5 p.m. at the Planning Department. The land that would host the tower is owned by Jeff Blackman and Erin Burnham, who are married.

The tower would be located at the north end of the parcel that runs north-south between Fairview Drive and Rocky Road. The nine-foot-high barbed wire enclosed base would cover a 50x50 foot square plot near the south end of Rocky Road.

Fairview Drive adjacent resident Melanie Finstad is one of the neighbors with concerns.

“Mr. Blackman has done many wonderful things for this community,” said Finstad. “I hope he realizes that this is a mistake.”

Finstad is organizing a Dec. 18 neighborhood meeting to provide information on the issues tied to view obstruction, potential generator noise, property value impacts and other concerns. The meeting will take place Tuesday, 6-8 p.m. at 3876 Fairview Drive. She has invited Blackman and Burnham to attend.

According to Blackman, he has already signed a contract with American and the application is being made through the company. Contracts offer long-term lease revenue to property owners. If approved, the parcel could become the host of the American Tower Corporation’s investment – leading to leased space for multiple cell service providers including AT&T.

“This was the last thing I wanted to do with that property,” said Blackman, who had previously sought to use his land as a potential ball field, bicycle park, school site or affordable housing complex – all uses previously not allowed under zoning regulations.

According to Finstad the tower’s dominating presence will obstruct many neighbors’ views and be out of place for the surrounding rural area. Although slated to replicate the appearance of a fir tree, the tower will rise more than 100 feet above the tallest of the surrounding trees.

Blackman expressed frustration about the long-term difficulties he has experienced in trying to develop his 10-acre RR-10 zoned land located in the National Scenic Act General Management Area.

“This was a very difficult decision for us — one that we spent a lot of time considering before we decided to go through with it,” said Blackman.

According to Josette Griffiths, county planner assigned to the application review, public comment should address concerns tied to the criteria regulations that govern the property. County Ordinances 55, 60 and 75, available online, provide some guidance.

If approved, additional rural residential placements could become more difficult to deny based on the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 that prohibits jurisdictions from creating unequal access for telecommunications facilities.

The county began to develop a specific cell tower ordinance following a previously denied 2009 application at Belmont and Frankton roads, but never completed the process after budget cuts reduced staff.

For the current site, the initial application has been submitted by American. The county has responded, requesting some additional information based on zoning criteria. The county will have 150 days from the final completed application, to issue a Planning Director decision, which would provide opportunity for appeal.

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captainc 1 year, 9 months ago

Melanie Finstad can purchase the land from Jeff Blackman and Erin Burnham (who -- relevant fact -- are married) and dream up her own idea of how it could be used as "another wonderful thing for the community."

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momo 1 year, 9 months ago

It does not matter what someone tried to create in that space, residents in HR would fight and argue it to death. Nothing every gets accomplished with so many entitled upper-middle class white people around.

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ElderOtto 1 year, 9 months ago

Maybe the kids at Westside can take a field trip to visit the giant fake tree: "Welcome, kids, to the tree of the future. It is made of steel and plastic, lives on electricity and diesel instead of water and sunlight, buzzes like a sack of angry wasps, emits a constant stream of electromagnetic radiation, is bristling with satellite dishes and antennae, and is surrounded by a nine-foot chain link fence. Any questions?"

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turducken 1 year, 9 months ago

@ momo, seriously?! What a childish thing to say. A community should be responsible for vetting what happens to it's natural areas and or former farmland. If a disproportiante and unneccesary cell tower is your idea of accomplishment, then you and I have very different ideas of what accomplishment means. Think about the impact that a structure of this size will have for the surrounding properties and families. I would expect that the landowners would want to build something benificial for the community instead of alienating themselves and their property with a ridiculous "tree". This is all gain for the landowners and cell company while the surrounding properties will pay the price with property value reduction and a ruined view. The residents of HR, in my humble opinion, deserve a bit more credit than you are giving them. This one boils down to the dollar, and you know it. Ask yourself this question. If you were going to purchase this land, wouldn't you want to know exactly what you could or could not do with it? For the landowners to say that this "was the last thing they wanted to do with that property", it clearly shows that a long term plan was ignored. Call me crazy, but I expect more from my community. I guess I'm just an entitled upper-middle class white person that doesn't need a cell "tree" in my backyard to update my comments to the HR News. Figure something else out. There have got to be other options.

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shadowjade 1 year, 9 months ago

Momo states the truth, though he/she left out one important detail - the majority of those residents are not true locals, but recent transplants who have taken over our community and twisted into something nearly unrecognizable and uneconomically sustainable by those whose families have lived here for generations.

And what us locals would really like is for those invaders to simply go the heck back wherever they came from.

They'll never have the best interest of THIS community at heart, because they're not truly part of it, not matter how much they pretend to be.

There is US, and there is THEM... and it's like oil and water, though we dance around each other and have this silly little pretense of cooperation, it's more closely akin to leeches, sucking the life out of what is left - and all we really want is the day they finish the bloodletting and leave.

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Cascadia 1 year, 8 months ago

I'm sure that the native Chinook tribal members would like you and yours to go back to where you came from too.

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bmmeup 1 year, 9 months ago

Momo hit the nail right on it's head. Turduken is living in a left wing fantasy world. The owners have tried to do many positive things with the property but have been denied by complaints of the entitled masses Momo spoke of. They don't want a baseball field or something that would benefit the community because it is too close to their vaction rental property. The bigger problem is the Gorge commission. People should be allowed to do what they want with their property...period.

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1620 1 year, 9 months ago

I bet a dollar that Blackman bought his property well after the gorge scenic act was enacted, and therefore knew full well that he could not do certain things with the land. It would also make him one of those "not a locals", but look who backs him! Hypocrites! I love this place!

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turducken 1 year, 9 months ago

Wow, brilliant responses above! I love the whole us vs. them argument. I know for a fact that the bordering Rocky Rd. residents have all lived there long enough to raise families in the community. At what point does one become a "true local"? I tell you what, why don't you have your neighbor install this abhorrent cell tower right next to your property? Don't get it twisted, this is just about money. It's not about outsiders getting in the way of accomplishment, whatever that means. I'm glad that the community is concerned. I would expect my neighbors to challenge me if I tried to do something that would negatively impact them. Oh wait, I live in a left wing fantasy world, I forgot. Take pride in the fact that you live in a desirable place, instead of complaining about how the "recent transplants" have sucked the lifeblood out of your community. People will migrate to more desirable areas and you happen to live in one. Get used to it.

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jkhol 1 year, 9 months ago

Wow to say that people who choose to move to hood river to better their lives and those around them are invaders is a very bold statement of what you think of your neighbors and community. Maybe you should sell your property and move out to the hills before us aliens take over.

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Cascadia 1 year, 8 months ago

What ever happened to the 35' or 45' height restrictions in Hood River County? Are they ignoring these just because they want to have better cell phone service?

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