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|12/3/2008 11:35:00 AM ||Email this article Print this article|
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|Cannon Beach approves cell phone tower|
Despite residents concerns about health issues, city OKs structure
By NANCY MCCARTHY
The Daily Astorian
CANNON BEACH - Despite testimony from several Cannon Beach residents expressing concerns that a 60-foot cell phone tower could cause health problems, the City Council approved a 25-year lease with Verizon Wireless.
The vote was 4-1. In favor were Councilors Nancy Giasson, Jerome Arnold and Melissa Cadwallader and Mayor Jay Raskin; Councilor Sam Steidel opposed the idea.
Verizon will build the tower adjacent to an existing 60-foot tower operated by T-Mobile on 900 square feet of city-owned property at East Washington and Spruce streets. An equipment building also will be constructed.
The lease calls for Verizon to pay the city $1,000 a month for the first five years. The lease then will be extended for four more five-year terms at increased rental rates of 15 percent per term.
The tower or "monopole," will provide digital technology for two-way mobile voice communication, paging, data transmission, voice mail and conference calling to downtown Cannon Beach, on the beach and along U.S. Highway 101. Although Verizon operates two facilities north and south of Cannon Beach, their location and elevation prevent them from providing coverage inside Cannon Beach buildings, according to a report presented to the planning commission in July.
Ted McLean, site specialist with RealCom Associates, who negotiated the contract with the city, said the 25 -year contract would enable Verizon to realize its investment.
"It's a tremendous capital investment - between $500,000 and $750,000 to install a tower," McLean told Councilor Giasson, who expressed concern about the length of the lease. "It takes 10 to 15 years to recover the cost."
McLean told the council and the city planning commission earlier that Verizon considered locating its antenna on T-Mobile's tower, but the available space on the tower is too low to meet Verizon's coverage requirements. To provide proper coverage, the tower would have to be 100 feet high, he said.
Although several people said they worried about the potential of cancer and leukemia rates increasing from radio frequency emissions when the tower is in place, Planning Director Rainmar Bartl reminded the council that the 1996 federal telecommunications act prohibits the council from considering potential health effects when siting a tower.
Cannon Beach resident Ed Johnson criticized the use of city open space for the tower's placement, the amount of room the tower and equipment building would take and the potential harm it would do to humans and animals.
"I'm here to speak for those who can't speak for themselves," Johnson said.
Several people asked whether the city would be liable for lawsuit if someone became ill. The council also asked city attorney Tamara Herdener about liability.
"If we're not allowed to look at health concerns, how can we be liable?" asked Giasson. "It seems to me the Federal Communications Commission should be liable."
Herdener said she didn't see how the city could be sued, "but I can't see 25 or 30 years down the road," Herdener said.
Councilor Arnold said the council was trying to make a decision "based on incomplete knowledge."
"Science is still way out there on the health effects," he said. "They used to say asbestos was safe. Now they find it's a huge problem. I'm not sure we can make a decision based on health effects. Maybe that's why the FCC prevented us."
The council also wondered if it could break the contract after five years, but Herdener called it a "pretty tight" agreement that could be dissolved only if one side didn't live up to its obligations.
City Manager Rich Mays said the council could ask Verizon to report on its technological progress every five years. "There might be a time when cell towers won't be necessary," he said.