Commissioners to consider 2 requests to build towers

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home Planning Commission next week will consider requests to construct two new communications towers, one to provide wireless communication with the Falls Creek Dam and the other for Verizon wireless service.

Commissioners will hold public hearings on both requests at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 18 at City Hall, 3225 Main St. in the City Council chambers. Members of the public are welcome.

Pacificorp, which owns and operates Pacific Power, had requested earlier this year a variance to allow replacement of a 70-foot pole with a 180-foot communications pole at its substation on 18th Avenue to serve the Falls Creek Hydroelectric Project.

Pacific Power planned to use the tower to communicate with the Falls Creek Hydroelectric Project east of Sweet Home. According to Pacific Power’s application, the height was necessary for the wireless signal to clear Riggs Hill and reach the Falls Creek project.

Pacificorp withdrew that request in favor of a property where it would not need to seek a variance.

Falls Creek Hydroelectric Project, LP, is now requesting a conditional use permit to construct a 43-foot pole at the Sweet Home Elks Lodge, 440 Osage St., which is in a low-density residential zone, according to application materials. The pole will be 12.75 inches in diameter.

A fenced area in the southwest corner of the lodge property will include a shed, propane tank, backup generator and an ice bridge, which carries cables into the lodge, to be connected to radios. CenturyLink will provide a T-1 connection from the radio equipment to the substation on 18th Avenue. The shed will be constructed of the same exterior material as the Elks Lodge and painted to match.

The Falls Creek Hydroelectric Project is located 25 miles east of Sweet Home in the Willamette National Forest. The project began operating in 1985, producing an average of 15.5 megawatts annually.

According to the project’s Facebook page, it makes use of Falls Creek’s stream flow, with water delivered through 7,380 feet of pipe dropping 2,381 feet down the mountainside to the South Santiam River. The entire length of the pipe is buried, with natural vegetation covering the route and concealing it from site. A powerhouse is located at the river.

The second request, from Velocitel, LLC, representing Verizon Wireless, is conditional use permit to build a 100-foot pole at 1602 18th Ave., which is owned by Lester Sales, zoned industrial and located just north of the railroad tracks. It will be constructed in a 50-foot by 50-foot fenced compound. The fencing will be surrounded by an evergreen hedge.

According to application materials, the pole is intended “to fill a significant gap in Verizon’s high band 4G LTE coverage and expanded capacity for its customers in the City of Sweet Home.

The tower will contain six antenna panels initially with space for up to 12. It will contain three remote radio units initially with capacity for up to 18. The tower will be designed with capacity for three wireless telecommunications providers. All of the equipment will be painted a flat neutral gray.

According to the application, Verizon is upgrading and expanding its wireless communications network to provide improvements in speed and functionality.

“Our customers rely on such wireless connections for school, work, business and in their personal lives,” the application said. “Installing the latest technology is the next step in increasing wireless speeds and network capacity to meet the demands of uses and the variety of content accessed over our mobile networks.”

The proposed site is centrally located to improve coverage to the city center, surrounded neighborhoods to the north and south and along Highway 20 from the western city limits to the eastern city limits, according to the application. Verizon targeted the area based on an analysis of market demand, customer complaints, service requests and radio frequency engineering design.

According to the application, the new facility will allow for uninterrupted wireless service, with fewer dropped calls, improved call quality and improved access to additional wireless service in the Sweet Home area.

For more information about the proposals and copies of application materials, contact the Community and Economic Development Department at (541) 367-8113 or stop by City Hall, 3225 Main St.

Public comments may be written and submitted prior to the hearing, The Planning Commission also will hear verbal testimony during the public hearings.