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Cell tower irks neighbors

The proposed 60-foot structure overlooking Talent would enable Verizon Wireless to enter the local market

Verizon Wireless' plans to expand into Jackson County have generated static from some residents opposed to construction of a 60-foot cell tower overlooking Talent.

It's a nuisance, said Arthur Alfinito, who owns undeveloped property next to the proposed tower on Suncrest Road near Interstate 5. It doesn't belong in a residential area.

Alfinito, 76, and some other nearby residents worry about the visual impact of a tower they believe could bring down property values and about possible health effects from transmissions.

They are running wild with all these high-frequency towers across the U.S., said Alfinito, who is urging the county to change its land regulations to make it tougher to erect these towers.

Verizon has plans to build two towers in Jackson County as it gears up for a major push into this market.

— We are building our network out here, said Verizon spokesperson Georgia Taylor, acknowledging Verizon service in this area is limited at present. She said it was company policy not to reveal when the company would be fully operational in the valley.

Verizon will lease space on the Suncrest property from Calvin Hayes, who couldn't be reached for comment.

Alfinito said he thought the towers generated microwave energy, but Taylor said the tower on Suncrest Road only produces radio frequencies. There is no microwave, she said.

Another tower, planned in the 600 block of Valley View Road outside Ashland, also doesn't generate microwaves, said Taylor. The tower will be partially concealed by a faux chimney.

Verizon is looking at another property near the airport for a tower and could share existing towers with other companies to provide better coverage.

Only a small number of cell towers in the country have microwave in situations where a land line isn't available, said Taylor.

Disputing claims that the towers could be health hazards, Taylor said, There's been no scientific truth to that.

Alfinito remained skeptical about the claims by Verizon that the towers don't produce microwaves.

What else can they say, he said. Likening it to the debate over global warming, he said, The scientists say 'yes' and the politicians say 'no.'

Another resident, Herbey Lumbreras, 34, said he's also concerned about his property values, but most particularly about effects on his family's health.

The actual waves (from the cell tower) are dangerously close to the length of a microwave, he said. We have three kids and domestic animals. We don't know what the health effects are.

Lumbreras, who expects the county to make a tentative decision on the tower later this month, said he and other residents plan to put up a fight, which could include litigation, to block the tower from being built.

Another neighbor, 78-year-old Dorothy Tollefson, said, It's ugly and I'm not sure how much radiation it will give off.

She said she doesn't understand how the county Planning Department would even consider allowing a cell tower in that location.

Her home sits just below the site for the proposed tower and Tollefson worries that runoff could undermine her property. Mud from the site slid during the last big rain, she said.

With a cell tower nearby, she said, I imagine it will really devalue our properties.

Alfinito said he purchased his 10-acre property last August and had no idea about plans for the tower.

Nobody disclosed this when I bought it, he said.

Tom Bizeau, county assistant planning manager, said the county could ask Verizon to do something that would make the tower blend in better.

In east Medford a cell tower has been made to look like a Ponderosa pine. In other areas, the towers have been painted green to blend in better with the surroundings.

We might work with them to make it more stealthy, said Bizeau.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail Cell tower irks neighbors"dmann@mailtribune.com.

Arthur Alfinito walks on his hilltop property overlooking the proposed site of a cell phone tower along Suncrest Road outside Talent. Alfinito and other neighbors worry that the tower will be unattractive and lower property values. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven