Public hearing set for ‘stealth’ cell tower

Hearings examiner will consider permit for 60-foot AT&T facility disguised as church bell tower

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An illustration shows the current Camas Methodist Church (left) and the church as it would appear with a 60-foot cellular tower disguised by a brick bell tower and spire (right). (Photo courtesy of the city of Camas)

A Camas hearings examiner will consider granting a conditional-use permit to construct an AT&T “stealth-designed” cellular tower at a public hearing set for 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, at Camas City Hall, 616 N.E. Fourth Ave. Camas.

AT&T has proposed building an 88-foot structure that will appear to be a bell tower with a church spire and cross, but will also be disguising a 60-foot cell tower.

The proposed cell tower site is owned by the Camas Methodist Church and is bordered to the north and the west by single-family residential neighborhoods, to the east by the Garver Theater and to the south by a former aqueduct known as the Mill Ditch, which used to carry water from Lacamas Lake to the Camas paper mill.

Under city code, cell towers in residential zones cannot exceed 60 feet, must be 20 feet from property lines and include this type of “stealth design.”

According to a city of Camas staff report: “The tower will be enclosed in a tall, narrow, brick building that looks like part of the existing church building … the tower is camouflaged and blends in with the surrounding environment.”

AT&T has said the proposed tower would replace its existing communications facility on the Garver Theater rooftop at 1612 N.E. Garfield St. AT&T’s lease for the Garver Theater cellular facility ends Nov. 1, 2028.

“It is important that the new proposed location is near the existing facility at Garver Theater to maintain the same coverage footprint,” the company stated in a report submitted to the city of Camas in June of this year. “The proposed facility is intended to provide coverage replacement and fill a significant gap in AT&T’s network coverage, capacity and mobility experienced by its customers in