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Cell tower woes

Officials try to quell concern over effects on health, property values as a tower proposed near Talent faces opposition

A proposed 60-foot cell tower east of Talent could destroy property values and pose health risks, neighboring residents told a Jackson County hearings officer Monday.

If this goes through, my property will be no good, said Dorothy Tollefson, whose land sits 120 feet away from where the tower would be built.

More than a dozen residents showed up to challenge a tentative approval of the tower by the county Planning Department, appealing the decision to county Hearings Officer Donald Rubinstein.

Verizon Wireless has proposed building the tower on property owned by Calvin Hayes and located almost adjacent to Interstate 5 on Suncrest Road. Hayes said he will receive about &

36;1,000 a month to have the tower on his land.

— Payne Road resident Kacey Dewing broke into tears describing her fears about the health effects of prolonged exposure to the tower, particularly on her children.

We don't want to be guinea pigs, and we don't want to find out later these things are dangerous, she said.

County Planner Robert Ivy said that one of the reasons the cell antennas are raised off the ground is to provide a good line-of-sight signal. Also, he said, They're raised to minimize health concerns.

Portland attorney Christopher Koback, representing Hayes, said, There is a misconception about what this radiates.

Only a few cell towers throughout the country have microwave dishes on them, but this one doesn't, he said. This does not radiate microwaves, said Koback.

Verizon also has a license with the Federal Communications Commission to erect these towers throughout the country.

Attorney Mark Bartholomew, representing several property owners, said the county hadn't made a good case for lessening the standard setback of the tower from neighboring properties.

The county reduced the standard setback of 200 feet to 120 feet, adjacent to Tollefson's property.

It has the effect of really looming over the property, he said.

Ivy said the decision to reduce the setback was based on the size of Hayes' property and the relatively short size of the tower at 60 feet. The county is also asking Verizon to determine if the tower could be built at 45 feet and still maintain the same coverage area.

Rubinstein, who will make a decision on the appeal by Feb. 15, wondered if the county had made any effort toward making the tower less conspicuous.

Ivy said there were no distinguishing features in the area such as trees, windmills or other structures that would suit disguising the tower. The area is relatively dry, with a few oak trees here and there.

The staff didn't really see an opportunity to mimic a certain feature, he said.

In other areas of the county, towers have been disguised as a tree or water tower.

Ashland resident Lou Hayes, who spoke for his father at the hearing, said he thought the tower would have a fairly minimal impact.

He cited a report this week in the British Medical Journal that showed no increased risk of brain tumors from cell phone use.

Herbey Lumbreras, who is building his dream home nearby on Payne Road, said using a cell phone is one thing, but living next to a cell tower is another.

This tower will be placed next to me, and I will be around it 24 hours a day, he said.

Arthur Alfinito, who lives on Payne Road, said the view on a property he purchased last year next to the proposed tower will be ruined.

Who's going to be responsible for the devaluation of my property? said Alfinito.

Cell tower woes "dmann@mailtribune.com.

A cell tower appears through the fog off Highway 62 near Coker Butte Road. Residents at a county hearing Monday opposed the placement of a 60-foot tower east of Talent. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell