Cell tower at Idlewilde approved

A 104-foot cell tower has been approved for construction on a piece of property next to Idlewilde Cemetery.

The “monofir pole” structure will be disguised with false branches to resemble a fir tree, according to plans proponent AT&T Wireless Company submitted in February.

Hood River County planners on June 9 gave AT&T tentative land use approval to build the structure within a 35-foot by 35-foot leased area on property the cemetery owns, near the corner of southwest Tucker Road and Brookside Drive.

During an appeal period following the cell tower plan’s approval, no legal challenges came forth.

Cell service coverage gaps prompted AT&T’s plans, according to site needs reports the company submitted to the county.

AT&T provided maps and written explanations demonstrating that such gaps exist along Tucker Road/Highway 281, a thoroughfare into the more rural south Hood River. The tower would allow better indoor coverage, speed, and 4G data, their reports said.

Nearby towers, the company asserted, weren’t suitable for collocating such technology. Four other sites that were considered were rejected because they were too close to an existing AT&T tower in downtown Hood River, didn’t meet zoning requirements, or were even more visible.

The county’s approval document notes the possibility of “future co-location potential of antennas and associated equipment,” meaning the new tower could accommodate other service providers as well.

“Concealment technology” will give the tower a tree-like appearance, designed and painted like a tree with faux branches starting about halfway up the pole — an attempt to blend in with nearby vegetation.

The plan received several written comments, two of which from nearby residents were critical. Anne and Clark Bryant, for instance, said they were “adamantly opposed to the tower.”

“It is directly in our line of sight from our home … (it’s) an eyesore and lowers property values,” they said.

However, no formal legal challengers stepped forward.

Hood River County Principal Planner Eric Walker said no appeals were filed in response to the cell tower application. The related building permit has been signed and “is ready to be issued,” he said this week.

Various cell tower applications have drawn controversy in recent years, with some residents decrying the impact the towers have on scenic views.

One case, Rawson v. Hood River County, rose to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals in early 2017. The dispute centered on a Verizon Wireless tower planned next to Hood River Valley High School.

The appeals board, LUBA, remanded the case in March, sending parts of it back to the county to resolve. The tower is still under appeal and the matter hasn’t yet resurfaced.

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