Windmaster Corner cell tower back before County

Plans for a cell tower near Windmaster Corner will return to the Hood River County Planning Commission for a hearing next month, following a re-sparked appeal by a nearby resident.

Verizon Wireless received land use approval last May to build a 100-foot monopole cell tower on a piece of land now owned by Double Mountain LLC off Indian Creek Road, just south of Hood River Valley High School. However, a nearby resident, Rebecca Rawson, filed an appeal shortly after, causing the wireless provider to backburner their plan.

After nearly a year dormant, Rawson’s appeal comes before the Planning Commission April 13.

The Planning Department last May approved land use for the scaled-down tower (originally proposed at 120-feet) with numerous improvements and conditions such as a chain-link fencing around the lease area, a gravel access road, and a condition that future “co-location” of antennas could be added to the structure.

In June, Rawson filed an appeal of the tower plan, citing the visual impact on neighbors among other concerns.

Eric Walker, County principal planner, said Verizon then put the application on hold to confirm the plan was consistent with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements, and to “potentially address the neighbors’ concerns about aesthetics.”

Walker said the only major difference in Verizon’s application this time around is the “applicant is proposing concealment technology to make the tower look like a tree.”

The 8.78-acre parcel is zoned light industrial. The property was formerly owned by Diamond Fruit, but recently changed hands to Double Mountain LLC.

The tower isn’t the first to come before the county, or the first to draw opposition from local residents. Verizon has sought a new tower in the Hood River area for more than six years, according to Planning Department reports.

Company representatives have said a new tower is necessary to help “offload” already busy cell sites in the Gorge, specifically a tower peeking over Underwood Mountain on the Washington side of the Columbia River that has caused “capacity concerns.”

Rawson argued the tower could pose a danger due to lightning strikes or low flying planes, and would tamper with the scenic views enjoyed near the high school.

“I find it a tragic thought to imagine future events and untold high school graduations with views marred by a tower that is higher than any surrounding structure and is an unprecedented eyesore to the beauty of our area,” Rawson wrote in a letter to the Planning Department.

A Planning Commission hearing considering Rawson’s appeal of the cell tower is scheduled for Wednesday, April 13 at 5:30 p.m. at the Board of Commissioners’ Conference Room of the County Business Administration Building, 601 State St.

Written comments must be received by Tuesday, March 22 to be included into the Planning Department’s staff report.

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