Hearing examiner denies request to reconsider cell tower approval

Decision can be appealed through Clark County Superior Court through Sept. 22

Motion for reconsideration

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Notice of Final Order on Reconsideration. Prune Hill Wireless Communications Facility. (File #CUP15-01)

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Notice of Decision for Prune Hill Wireless Communication Facility.

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The Camas land use hearing examiner has rejected a request to change a decision he made in August to allow a 175-foot telecommunications tower to be built on Prune Hill.

In the final order issued Sept. 1, Joe Turner concluded that the request for reconsideration, filed Aug. 19 by Camas resident Glenn Watson and Friends of Prune Hill, “failed to allege an erroneous procedure, or errors of law or fact.”

The group’s attorney, Mark A. Erikson, argued that Turner failed to correctly interpret the law, and his Aug. 5 decision to approve the conditional use permit was not supported by evidence.

“The reconsideration request merely reiterated issues raised at the hearing and during the open record period,” Turner wrote in the final order. “Friends’ additional arguments regarding these issues are not persuasive.”

In the request for reconsideration, Friends of Prune Hill also alleged that the city did not conduct reviews of its telecommunications ordinance, as dictated in city code. Turner disagreed, explaining that it was reviewed and revised in 2011 and 2014.

“The city appears to have complied with its periodic review requirements and Friends failed to provide any support for their assertion that the city’s alleged failure to conduct required periodic review renders the final order valid,” Turner wrote in the final order.

The conditional use permit allows PI Telecom Infrastructure, LLC, of Jacksonville, Florida, and Freewire of Beaverton, Oregon, to build the wireless telecommunications tower on private property at 2829 N.W. 18th Ave. The owner of the five-acre parcel, Jean M. Nagel, will lease a portion of it to the applicant.

On Wednesday, Watson said he was disappointed with the hearing examiner’s denial of the request for reconsideration. He questioned whether Turner could be unbiased in his decision.

“Our group found it interesting that the same official who approved the application was also responsible for handling the reconsideration request,” he said in an email. “In our opinion, it appears to be conflict of interest, as the official would be forced to admit error in his initial decision in order to approve the reconsideration.”

According to Watson, Friends of Prune Hill has initiated an appeal process with Clark County Superior Court, an option that is available for 21 days following the decision on the request for reconsideration. The group has been working to raise money to fight the project through an online crowd funding campaign.

During the public comment process held prior to Turner’s decision on the CUP, issues of concern included wireless telecommunications towers’ visual impacts, health issues related to exposure to radio frequency waves, and the effects on migratory bird patterns.

The public’s outcry led the Camas City Council on Sept. 6 to unanimously approve an emergency moratorium on any new wireless telecommunications facilities within city limits.

The ban will last until Aug. 7, 2017, giving city staff and council time to conduct a review of the wireless telecommunications ordinance and consider any changes.

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 moratorium has no impact on Turner’s Aug. 5 approval of the Prune Hill cell tower. Wireless facilities that have already been approved are vested in the city’s current code.

Watson said Friends of Prune Hill would like see Nagel explore alternatives to allowing a cell tower to be built on her property.

“We encourage the City of Camas to enter into discussions with the owners regarding purchasing the property and converting it into a park for the many families with young children living the in the area,” he said. “This would also create a noteworthy legacy for the property owners, something more appropriate and meaningful than a 175-foot tall cell tower.”