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ATC tower decision could come Nov. 13

The Hood River County Planning Commission may decide this Wednesday whether or not a 140-foot cell tower on the west side of Hood River can be built.

A public hearing to consider American Tower Corporation’s appeal to build a cell tower in between Fairview Drive and Rocky Road will occur Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Hood River County Business Administration Building located at 601 State Street.

The proposal from ATC has drawn the ire of many local residents who feel the tower is too tall and poorly sited, with a location that abuts a residential area as well as a popular recreation trail that contains views of Mount Hood and Mount Adams.

ATC representatives maintain that the tower, which would be disguised as a fir tree, is needed to fill coverage gaps south of Hood River that have been identified by AT&T — a wireless carrier that would be the primary beneficiary if the cell tower is approved. According to tower proponents, demand for cell service is growing and the new tower is needed to offload some of the burden placed on other cell towers in the Gorge that are nearing their carrying capacity.

Planning Director Mike Benedict originally nixed ATC’s permit to build the tower back in July after deeming that the structure was too tall and not visually compatible with the surrounding area. Approximately 90 people submitted written comments regarding the cell tower application and Benedict said that none, to his knowledge, were in favor of the proposal.

ATC appealed the decision soon after and reduced the height of the tower, which was originally 165 feet, down to its current proposed height of 140 feet.

During a public hearing that was held Oct. 23, tower opponents, many of whom live near the proposed site, scoffed at ATC’s offer, saying the tower would still be too tall. ATC and AT&T again countered that the cell tower’s location was needed to reduce coverage gaps and to alleviate the burden that is placed on current towers, particularly during a situation of high-usage, like a natural disaster.

Commissioners honored a request from cell tower proponents to keep the record open for three weeks following the hearing and the planning department has been collecting written testimony from both sides during this time. Most of the comments, with the exception of the appellant’s final written testimony, can be viewed on the planning department’s website (www.hood-river.or.us, click on the “Community Development” tab, then the “American Tower appeal info” link).

The seven-member planning commission will not hear any new testimony from the audience during the public hearing, other than what has been submitted in writing ahead of time. The commissioners will deliberate and likely vote on the issue that evening.

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