Residents affected by the surprise appearance Dec. 28 of a 130-foot emergency communications tower in east Medford said Thursday they plan to appeal the city's decision to place the tower within 30 feet of their homes on Valley View Drive and Ridge Way.
About eight residents showed up at the Medford City Council's meeting to complain that the city had failed to notify them of plans to erect the tower on Medford Water Commission property off Capital Avenue and did not consider the impact of the location on property values.
"This is not a case of something irreversible," said Michael Johnson, a Ridge Way resident.
Residents in the neighborhood known as Capital Hill returned from the holidays to find the tower looming over their houses.
Under city code, as a municipal building intended for the public good, the tower is exempt from the normal requirements of notifying affected residents of a planned development, holding a public hearing and receiving approval from the Medford Planning Commission.
But City Attorney John Huttl said the code also allows residents to appeal the decision to the City Council.
And council President Dick Gordon encouraged residents to do so.
An appeal would entitle residents to a public hearing and would give the council a chance to consider moving the tower.
Medford police Chief Randy Schoen said the failure to notify residents was unintentional and resulted from a miscommunication between city staff members. He and Councilman Bob Strosser have apologized to the residents.
"It's our responsibility to make sure that (notification) happened, and my apology to everybody that you have to be here today," Strosser said.
The new tower was placed near residents' homes because another location higher up on the hill contained large rocks that would have been expensive to drill through in order to secure a foundation, Schoen said. It would have cost a total of about $50,000 more to build the tower at the higher location, he said.
The City Council approved the location late last year before construction. Council members said they weren't aware that residents hadn't been notified.
But residents said the city also neglected to consider the impact the tower would have on property values when it opted for the less expensive location.
"My argument would be when you look at the deterioration of property values, all the property owners paid the additional (cost)," said Buzz Thielemann, a resident of Ridge Way.
The 130-foot tower replaces a 60-foot tower to the south on the same nine-acre property owned by the water commission and is visible to residents for a mile around it. The tower has served as the city's primary communications transmission center since 1988.
Emergency responders sometimes lose reception in low-lying areas of the city, as well as inside buildings such as the Rogue Valley Mall, Schoen said. The taller, more powerful tower will solve those problems, he said.
In other business, two new council members, Karen Blair and John Michaels, were sworn in to wards 2 and 3, respectively.
Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.