Camas City Council implements cell tower moratorium

Planning commission hearing is scheduled for Nov. 15

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The Camas City Council unanimously approved an emergency moratorium on new wireless telecommunications facilities within city limits.

The council voted 6-0 Tuesday during its regular meeting, in favor of a ban that will last until Aug. 7, 2017. This, city officials have stated, will give staff and council time to conduct a review of the wireless telecommunications ordinance and consider any changes.

Judy Bauer, a Camas resident since 1991, said she would like to see the zoning codes changed to protect the Camas community from any more cell towers dotting its landscape.

“I think part of what has happened is the federal law has said that you can’t say no to cell phone towers,” she said during a public comment period prior to the council vote. “That may be the case, but we can regulate where and how tall and what they look like. We really need to consider that information carefully.”

The moratorium ordinance sets a Planning Commission hearing on the permitting of a wireless communication facility for Nov. 15. Staff will then create a report and proposed amendments, followed by public hearings scheduled for May 16, 2017, in front of the Planning Commission, and then another in front of the City Council on June 19, 2017.

“The City Council desires to review its zoning and use codes related to wireless communication facilities for consistency with the vision, goals and policies established through the Camas 2035 comprehensive plan,” the moratorium states.

Camas resident Glenn Watson said the code needs to be strengthened to help maintain Camas’ quality of life and livability.

“[The City Council], for the most part, are the guardians of our city,” he said. “The cell towers and things that are going on here tear away at the fabric of all of the reasons why we moved here.”

Councilman Don Chaney encouraged citizens to continue to stay involved in the process, as the City Council works to revise its ordinance.

“We are going to try to do it right.” he said. “We are going to try to make it right.”

The implementation of the moratorium comes following a decision on Aug. 5 by the city’s hearing examiner to approve 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.

Camas land-use laws allow cell phone towers in residential areas, within a specific set of criteria.
That decision by Joe Turner has been met with criticism from the community, including the group Friends of Prune Hill, led by Watson.

Concerns have included wireless telecommunications towers’ visual impacts, health issues related to exposure to radio frequency waves, and the effects on migratory bird patterns.

On Aug. 19, Vancouver attorney Mark A. Erikson filed a motion with the city on behalf of Watson and Friends of Prune Hill, asking Turner to reconsider his decision. Erikson argues that Turner failed to correctly interpret the law, and his decision to approve the conditional use permit was not supported by evidence. In addition, the motion states that the city did not conduct reviews of its telecommunications ordinance, as dictated in city code.

According to the city’s municipal code, Turner must issue a decision on the request for review within the next 45 days. His options include denying the request, modifying the decision, or affirming the decision.

The moratorium approved on Tuesday has no impact on Turner’s Aug. 5 decision about the cell tower at 2829 N.W. 18th Ave. Wireless facilities that have already been approved are vested in the city’s current code.