News

Cell tower gets nod from city

By Dennis Box, The Courier-Herald

The appeal that went before the Bonney Lake City Council on Dec. 9 to halt construction of a 150-foot Cingular cell tower went down to defeat by a 4-3 vote. Six council members were split, so Mayor Bob Young cast the deciding vote.

Council members Neil Johnson, Cheryle Noble and Jim Rackley voted to uphold the appeal, while members Phil Deleo, Mark Hamilton and Dave King voted to allow the cell tower construction.

Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman filed the appeal on Nov. 4 and was not allowed to vote or be present in City Council Chambers during the deliberation.

Once council members deadlocked, Young cast the vote accepting the hearing examiner's findings and allowing Cingular to construct the tower on the Rainier Plaza site.

"Whether I like or agree with the tower," Young said at the meeting, "when I look at the law I have to reluctantly vote yes. This will not stand up in court."

The motion to consider the appeal was closed to any public testimony. All information pertaining to the appeal had to be filed by Dec. 5.

Citizen comments were allowed earlier in the council meeting and attorney David Hall, representing Cingular, stated that Swatman's appeal was "highly unusual, appealing to his own council." Hall voiced his opinion at the meeting if the City Council voted to halt the construction of the cell tower, that decision would not stand up on appeal to the Washington Superior Court.

"We were certain we were right," Hall said. "The council made the right decision. It was the only decision they could make with the language in their code. It would have been unfortunate for everyone if it had to go beyond the City Council."

Roy Caviezel, who organized a neighborhood petition drive with Bob Pranger to stop the tower, felt some of the council members responded to the attorney's threat of further legal action.

"I was disappointed in the decision," Roy Caviezel said. "As usual in small towns, when an attorney threatens a lawsuit that puts the weight against citizens. They (council members) were concerned with a lawsuit."

Swatman said the issue would not move beyond the appeal to the City Council. "It's a done deal now. I believe I could appeal it further, but there's no reason to now. I was just trying to help those people in the neighborhood. Ironically, if I would not have been the one to file the appeal it would have gone 4-3 the other way."

The 150-foot tower, which is suppose to be "stealth" or camouflaged as a flagpole, caused several council members and citizens to question its size, but Hall stated that was one of the selling points. "The height eliminates the need for other facilities," he said. "There's room for two or three users inside the pole."

Swatman said the City Council needs to revisit the municipal code on this issue. "The city needs to take an inventory of the cell towers in town and define what is and is not stealth. To me, camouflage means to blend in. If you go hunting for a deer in an orange uniform that's not camouflage. My intention is to change the municipal code to make it as clear as possible. I think we want these towers on public property so the citizens are collecting the fees."

Qwest was the original owner of the tower, but sold the site to Cingular. "We came in during the permit process," Cingular spokesperson Lauren Garner said. "We were looking throughout the area and that was the only location that met all our needs. It's a priority for us to find an existing location and fit into the community."

Caviezel said his neighbors hope Cingular will be a good corporate neighbor. "I would think they would come back and try to work with us. I hope they would consider we don't really want that flag up there."

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com

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