Huskies roll over North Marion gridders

Sean C. Morgan

After a 3-3 deadlock on Oct. 4, the Sweet Home Planning Commission reopened and continued a public hearing on whether to grant a conditional use permit to Spring PCS to build a cell tower in Sweet Home.

The Planning Commission asked Sean Bell of Pacific Telecom Services, representing Sprint, to provide further information why Spring will not locate an antenna on a nearby water tower.

Spring proposes putting up a monopole tower at 1680 18th Ave., Santiam Spray. Earlier this year, it requested a permit to put one up at Sweet Home Police Department. The Planning Commission continued that hearing for the same reason, and Sprint withdrew the request.

Commissioner Rich Rowley outlined Sweet Home’s cell tower ordinance. The ordinance sets priorities for wireless providers, requiring them to use existing towers and structures. If the structures available are not feasibly useable, then the provider can construct a new tower.

“I think it’s a shame that the water tower is dismissed,” Rowley said.

The water tower is on land owned by Western States Land Reliance Trust. Dan Desler is the managing trustee for the land, which was formerly occupied by Willamette Industries’ Sweet Home Mill.

Desler has opposed Sprint’s application because Spring has not shown why the water tower is not feasible.

Sprint addressed the objection in the current application.

“Spring and the property owner discussed using the existing water tank and mountain antennas to the handrail. Prior to entering the agreement, however, Sprint discovered that the parent parcel contained levels of hazardous materials that exceeded Sprint’s environmental liability threshold. Although the owner was willing to cooperate by whatever means necessary, Sprint PCS environmental policy prevented negotiations from moving forward.”

“I agree with Mr. Desler,” Rowley said. “It’s dismissed out of hand.”

Dr. Henry Wolthuis, a commissioner, told the commission it must allow free enterprise to proceed, to allow Sprint to talk to whom it chooses.

“A person has a right to deal with whom they want to,” Dr. Wolthuis said. “Then we look and make sure it meets our needs and codes.”

Rowley insisted that the company must follow Sweet Home’s code, which lists preferences and prioritizes types of sites for communications equipment.

Rowley did not believe Sprint had proved the water tower was not feasible. He wants Sprint to show why it would not work.

“Sprint isn’t even paying attention to our regulations up front,” Commissioner Mike Kinney said.

Sprint’s environmental policy makes it unfeasible, Chairman Dick Meyers said. “If you’ve got enough money, anything is possible. It may not be feasible…. They said, we can’t do it, and here’s the reason why. It violates our policy.”

“I would also question whether we’re subject to their environmental policy,” Rowley said.

Dr. Wolthuis moved to approve the conditional use permit. Voting to approve it were Frank Javersak, Dr. Wolthuis and Meyers. Voting against the motion were Rowley, Al Culver and Kinney. Bob Johnson was absent.

Meyers reopened the public hearing to allow Sprint more testimony, detail and rebuttal as to why the water tower is not feasible. The hearing continues in November.