Hearing examiner approves Prune Hill cell tower

Decision comes with a list of conditions

A hearing examiner has approved an application to build a 175-foot wireless telecommunications tower on private property on Prune Hill, after determining the structure will not be “materially detrimental” to the area.

PI Telecom Infrastructure, LLC, of Jacksonville, Florida, and Freewire of Beaverton, Oregon, applied for a conditional use permit to build a monopole, three panel antennas, seven microwave antennas and ground equipment. The facility will be constructed on a 40- by 40-foot cement pad at 2829 N.W. 18th Ave.

The monopole would support antennas for Freewire and T-Mobile, and later a third carrier.

According to Clark County property records, there is one single-family residence on the five-acre parcel that is owned by Jean M. Nagel. The site is located partially within a wetland buffer.

“The applicants have leased a portion of the parcel for development of the wireless facility,” states a report prepared by city of Camas staff.

Hearing Examiner Joe Turner’s approval, issued Friday, came with a list of nearly two dozen conditions including requiring that equipment cabinets be painted earth tone colors and feature gabled roofs; the site be enclosed by a solid wood fence; and the monopole, antennas and other equipment mounted on the monopole be painted gray or blue.

In addition, the applicant is limited to the installation of up to 15 panel antennas and 10 microwave antennas, with the combined surface area of all antennas approximately 200 feet; any future modifications to the tower cannot extend it above 175 feet; and a sign up to 4 square feet will be installed listing the wireless service provider’s name and emergency phone number.

In June, more than a dozen people spoke in opposition of the CUP application during a public hearing in front of Turner.

Many of those who testified expressed concerns about a wireless telecommunications tower’s visual impacts, health issues related to exposure to radio frequency waves, and the effects on migratory bird patterns.

Turner said during the hearing that he is required to make his decision based on the city’s laws, which allow cell phone towers in residential areas within a specific set of criteria.

There are factors he is not legally allowed to contemplate when making his ruling, including potential health effects and how they relate to property values.

According to Turner, to approve a CUP he needed to determine whether the use would be materially detrimental to the public welfare, or injurious to the property or improvements in the vicinity of the proposed use.

“Prior to adopting the code, the City Council considered the potential impacts of wireless facilities and concluded that they can be compatible with residential uses,” stated Turner’s decision. “Therefore, the examiner cannot find that the mere existence of a wireless communication facility in a residential zone is per se materially detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to property or improvements.”

His decision acknowledges, however, that the wireless tower will be “visually incongruous.”

“Although the tower’s height will make it visible from vantage points in the surrounding area, that is all it does. It is visible,” he said. “It does not affect the potential use of surrounding property. Although some people may not want to see the tower, views of the tower do not have a significant impact on use of surrounding properties.”

South of the site of the future 175-foot telecommunications tower, there is an existing wireless facility set back approximately 145-feet from 18th Avenue.

This parcel, owned and managed by the city, includes two water towers and a 180-foot tall Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency tower, and associated equipment buildings. Eight other wireless providers lease space to place equipment at this site,

City code does not require a minimum separation between wireless towers.