Aplanned 200-foot radio broadcast tower near Ross Lane and Rossanley Drive in rural Medford is causing static among those who would be its neighbors.
Four Ross Lane residents have challenged Jackson County's approval of the tower to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, or LUBA, claiming the county misinterpreted state land use law and didn't adequately consider alternative sites for the tower.
"My opinion is that the county should have forced him to look harder at alternative sites," said resident Glenn Woodbury, one of the four petitioners. "Instead, we have to go out and spend the money to prove him wrong."
The other petitioners are his wife, Lori, along with Guy Hamilton and Alta Robinson.
They say the AM radio tower to be built on a 360-by-360-foot area on 45 acres of land zoned as exclusive farmland would lower property values and mar residents' view of a panorama of surrounding farmland. The tower would be about 500 feet from the nearest residence, which is located on the 45 acres owned by tower applicant Bruce Fjarli, according to county documents.
Woodbury said the county incorrectly interpreted state law that says utility facilities for public service may be located on land zoned as exclusive farmland use. He questioned Fjarli's statements that he would not charge for use of the antenna.
"This antenna is not necessary for public service," Woodbury said. "Make no mistake; it is a private, commercial venture."
Meanwhile, alternative sites, such as KTVL Channel 10's property at the corner of Ross and Rossanley or near the tower applicant's home on Ross Lane, were ignored, the residents argue.
Kelly Madding, the county's development services director, said there's no requirement that the radio tower be nonprofit. She also said alternative sites were considered.
Fjarli is co-owner of Southern Oregon Builders, which builds and leases commercial buildings. He conducted an alternative sites analysis, as required by the county. In the analysis, Fjarli was required to rule out alternatives for the tower on non-exclusive farmland property but was not expected to show alternatives on exclusive farmland, Madding said.
Planners also concluded in their recommendation to approve the tower that the structure would not have significant impact on farming practices and would not interfere with aircraft.
The residents initially appealed the county's decision to county hearings officer Donald Rubenstein, who upheld the county's decision Nov. 15. The next step was to appeal to LUBA, which they did Dec. 6.
"They don't have a basis for their appeal," Fjarli said of the neighbors' petition to LUBA.
Contrary to the residents' claim, he said, he would not charge rent to radio stations.
"We will pay the broadcast fees," he said. "We are giving it (the tower) to the public."
He declined to reveal what had prompted the plan to build the tower, which stations would use it or why the service would be free.
"I do have reasons," he said. "I don't care to disclose them to you."
Dan McCullough, pastor at the Medford Seventh-day Adventist Church, said he and Fjarli had discussed over the past several years possibly starting a religious radio station that would broadcast Little League and high school athletic games in addition to religious programming.
"They (the Fjarlis) put an application in and got approval and slowly, carefully have been moving forward with that," McCullough said. "What it will look like is up to them."
Woodbury and Hamilton said Fjarli could have built the tower by his own house on Ross Lane or added the tower to existing footings for a previous AM radio tower on KTVL Channel 10 property.
"Why doesn't he put the tower behind his home?" Woodbury said.
Bob Johnson of Johnson Communications, whose father used to own the KTVL property and still owns the pieces of the old 300-foot tower, said he would be willing to sell the tower parts to Fjarli for $5,000.
"As I was talking to people objecting to the new tower going in, (Woodbury) asked for suggestions," Johnson said. "One of the things you might be able to do is see if KTVL would let you re-erect the old AM tower right there. I probably have all the pieces necessary to put together a 200-foot tower."
However, Johnson added: "It's a real long-shot deal. If there were 10 alternatives, it would probably be number 10. (Fjarli) would have to get approval from KTVL and the county. But my main point was, why an AM tower? AM is going to be outdated in the next 10 to 15 years."
A hearing date has not yet been set for the appeal, according to LUBA. Hamilton, the head petitioner, is required to file a brief of his argument by Thursday, Jan. 27, and a hearing could occur by the end of February or early March.
Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.