Did Hearings Officer “Bend” The Rules in Recent Verizon Tower Decision?

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More than a dozen Bend residents are trying to halt the construction of a 60-foot Verizon Wireless monopine that has already been approved by a hearings officer. The Bulletin reported that over a dozen residents are concerned that the tower will negatively impact health and property values plus harm aesthetics. 

“I recognize that cell towers are a necessary part of life these days, but I think we also need to be responsible in how and where we choose to locate them,” Matt Finnestad, a Bend resident, wrote to the city. “A 60-foot tall fake pine tree cell tower in a predominantly residential neighborhood with no buildings or trees even close to that height is a poor location.”

Last year, residents complained about a similar tower project, near an elementary school, voicing health concerns. Of the school tower, Mayor Sally Russell noted that under federal law, no state or local government could prohibit the offering of wireless services where a carrier is licensed. 

Regarding the approved Verizon tower, the City Council will decide whether to hear an appeal by residents Debrah and Jerry Curl. The Curls claim the hearings officer that approved the tower “misinterpreted and misapplied city code when reviewing the project and inappropriately approved a cell tower,” reported The Bulletin.

According to the hearing officer’s decision, there is no criteria on the books that require an applicant (Verizon Wireless) to address any impacts on property values. Health and safety impacts perceived by opponents of the tower are also not enforceable, the officer said.

“Some people raised concerns about the health and safety impacts of the RF emissions from the wireless communications facility,” the hearings officer wrote in the decision. “The City is legally prohibited from considering RF emissions, but the community need not be concerned about this issue because the wireless communications facility will emit a fraction of the legally allowed RF emissions.”

Some fear that RF waves will heat body tissue. However, the level of frequencies used by cell phones and towers is much lower, according to the Oregon branch of the American Cancer Society. 

As a next step, the city staff is advising the council not to hear the appeal. According to city documents, the appeal does not have a citywide impact or concern citywide policy, reported The Bulletin

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