An east Medford neighborhood incensed over an emergency communications tower on Capital Hill has prompted the city to consider an alternative site for a new tower.
The Medford City Council heard testimony Thursday night from neighbors who say the 130-foot tower has ruined their views and slammed their property values.
The tower sits 53 feet back from the neighborhood property line.
Residents also said the city did not properly notify them of the tower before it was built.
Angie McLemore, who lives one mile from the tower, shared pictures taken from her home showing the tower looming over trees in her backyard.
"There isn't a tree that is ever going to remotely grow to cover that tower," she said. "This tower has degraded so many neighborhoods."
Medford police Chief Randy Schoen said the department worked with the water commission to chose the location for the tower because it provides the best communication vantage points in Medford.
The issue facing the department is that the city contains several spots that aren't covered by the existing tower, which hampers the police's ability to respond to life-and-death calls quickly.
Several who spoke before the council criticized the city for not giving the neighborhood notice before the tower was built. However, city law does not require officials to announce the construction of a tower used by public utilities such as police and fire departments.
In the past, Schoen has voiced his regrets over the tower's visual appeal, or lack thereof.
The new tower replaces a 60-foot tower to the south on the same 9-acre property owned by the Medford Water Commission.
Roy Wright, a real estate appraiser, said he drove to the neighborhood and was shocked by the sight of the tower.
"My first impression was, 'What the hell is that?'" he said.
Wright said the tower's presence will make it harder to sell property in the area.
In response, Schoen presented a plan to remove the tower and construct a smaller one between 150 and 250 feet from the nearest property line. The new tower would also be shorter than the current one and would be less visible to neighbors.
"This plan does have some drawbacks," Schoen said.
He noted that it would cost the city an additional $179,000 to relocate the tower. It also might have to be moved again in a decade or so if the water commission is forced to expand the reservoir to meet the needs of a growing population.
Councilman John Densmore asked if the current tower could be camouflaged or made to look more like a tree.
Schoen said the tower's shape would not lend it to camouflage.
Buzz Thielemann, a neighbor who has protested the tower, said he would accept an alternative site for the tower on Capital Hill, though he would not want it to hamper anyone else's view.
"I just don't want to shove it in someone else's backyard," he said.
Carpenter Hill in southeast Medford is another possible location, but the city would have to pay $500,000 or more to purchase the property.
The council is still excepting written opinions on the tower and could make a decision on whether to move the tower in the coming weeks.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail email@example.com.