Camas City Council will vote on cell tower moratorium

City code currently allows wireless telecommunications towers in residential areas

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The Camas City Council will soon consider a resolution that if approved would place a moratorium on new wireless telecommunications towers within city limits.

During Monday’s workshop, Councilman Don Chaney suggested the moratorium be put in place.

The city’s laws allow cell phone towers in residential areas, within a specific set of criteria.

Community Development Director Phil Bourquin said he would have a proposed moratorium ordinance ready for City Council decision at its next regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

The placement of cell towers on private property within city limits has recently been a hotly debated topic.

On Aug. 5 the city’s hearing examiner, Joe Turner, approved a conditional use permit allowing PI Telecom Infrastructure, LLC, of Jacksonville, Florida, and Freewire of Beaverton, Oregon, to build a 175-foot wireless telecommunications tower on private property at 2829 N.W. 18th Ave.

The record included verbal testimony from a dozen citizens who spoke out against it during a public hearing in July, as well as a slew of written letters opposing the project.

According to Turner, to approve the 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.”

Chaney said he was recently contacted by several of the citizens who opposed the 18th Avenue cell tower. They described the city’s current laws governing wireless communications facilities’ as “outdated.”

“They were concerned about our ordinance being outdated, and lacking in some things that might have given them relief had it been in place,” Chaney said. “We represent those people. I feel for them. I also feel now moving on we should give it a serious look, we should ask staff to engage the topic using some of the material that was presented by those citizens.”

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.

A moratorium would have no impact on Turner’s Aug. 5 decision about the cell tower at 2829 N.W. 18th Ave.

According to Bourquin, if approved the moratorium would likely extend beyond six months. This would provide enough time for staff to research the issue and for the City Council to consider whether a new ordinance is needed.

“Staff would be very supportive,” he said. “We would just need the time to do the right work on it, without having to come back and ask for additional moratoriums.”