Legal Power Applied to Erect Oregon Tower

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When put to a vote, Oregon’s Baker City Planning Committee recently voted 5-2 against Verizon Wireless’ request to obtain a conditional use permit to construct a 70-foot cell tower. However, the Baker City Herald reports a legal challenge may give rise to another chance for the dismissed tower.

E. Michael Connors, a lawyer associated with the Portland firm Hathaway Larson, is pleading Verizon’s case. 

Verizon contends that the City Planning Committee’s rejection of Verizon’s proposal puts them in violation of the Telecommunication Act of 1996. Connors noted that, “it would be virtually impossible for Verizon to site a tower to resolve the significant gap in coverage and capacity in the City. That would be a clear-cut violation of the federal Telecommunications Act.” 

Reducing the height to 50 feet would skirt the conditional use permit requirement, but Verizon claims that 70 feet, “is the minimum height necessary to satisfy the coverage and capacity objectives and therefore minimizes the visual impacts to the extent practicable.” Connors argued that Verizon met all zoning requirements with its request.  

Long-time committee member, Alan Blair, countered that Verizon’s request was given due consideration and a fair review. “It’s not our responsibility to find them a suitable location for their tower,” he said. “The site selected is in a section of Baker City that is zoned as industrial. Connors noted that city zoning requirements specifically required Verizon to consider industrial zoned properties first before considering other sites for the telecommunications tower, which it did in this case.” 

Blair said that the parcel selected was zoned as industrial but should have been re-labelled as residential years ago because of housing that has sprung up in that area. 

The proposed tower would include a pine branch disguise to minimize the visual impact.  A measure, Connors stated, that was a concession of Verizon’s part since city codes do not address this issue. The next meeting to discuss this issue is set for today, January 7. 

January 7, 2020   

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