Randy Leonard proved to be the lone voice of reason when his fellow city councilors voted to approve construction of a cell phone tower on Foster Road, despite strong neighborhood objection and findings that the application did not meet regulatory requirements. Ignoring a Hearings Officer’s recent decision to block the proposal based on arguments brought forward by neighborhood advocates, Leonard’s vote last week was the only one cast in favor of upholding a denial for development on the Mt. Scott Fuel site, at SE 69th and Foster.
Verizon was originally granted a recommendation for approval by city staff to erect the antenna, but neighborhood opposition in Mt. Scott-Arleta put the project on hold, as they discovered flaws in the proposal that seemed to counter stated regulations for such development in residential areas. These flaws, and the arguments by the Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Association, eventually led to a hearing in which Verizon’s approval was denied by a Hearings Officer. This was a big score for the neighborhood, but it also left open the door for Verizon to appeal the decision and bring a final ruling to city council.
When city council met last week, it was assumed it would just be a formality, in which they went on record supporting the Hearings Officer’s decision (in essence, the denial for Verizon to develop the site would be upheld). However, after pressure from Verizon and their lawyers following the original convening of city council in January, the applicants were permitted to provide more information to support their proposal. This goes against the customary practice of simply determining whether the Hearings Officer provided the right decision based on the facts originally presented. Instead, with the exception of commissioner Leonard, city council considered the new information and voted to overstep the Hearings Officer’s decision, giving Verizon the green light to proceed with their original plans. In the face of strong, well thought out neighborhood opposition, Amanda Fritz and her peers voted to overturn the denial to develop and allow Verizon to erect the 45-foot pole, which will have up to nine antennas, each with 3 channels of over 750 watts.
Now, with one less avenue to oppose the development, the residents along Foster Road and near Mt. Scott Fuel Company may be treated to upwards of 18,000 watts of effective radiated power (ERP). Although the neighborhood owes Randy Leonard thanks for supporting their stance, the rest of the commissioners displayed an unfortunate siding with Verizon, which knowingly adds to the radiation pollution of a neighborhood seeking to improve its character and quality of living.
Score one for Randy, but this is a big loss for the neighborhood, and potentially commissioner Fritz, too, as she may lose local support as she prepares for an election. Many props go to the Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Association for fighting the good fight. In the end, though, it wasn’t their fault a tower may be placed in the neighborhood…this lies with city council. The fight does continue, though, and neighborhood advocates will be bringing the case to the State of Oregon: Land Use Board of Appeals. Hopefully good news will follow.
Please contact the Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Association for more information or if you want to get involved with the final appeal.