A radio-cell tower in Dungeness that area residents fought against in recent months will be upright and operational by November, developers said last week.
The foundation for the tower is in and electricity has been installed atop Brigadoon Boulevard in the housing community Dungeness Heights, project consultant Bryon Gunnerson said.
Gunnerson anticipates the estimated $500,000 tower being vertical in early November and guised as a fir tree in early December.
Gunnerson said the tower will help customers of wireless companies, such as Verizon, have better in-home penetration for at least 3 miles, increase radio frequency for Clallam County Fire District 3, and it will create a new FM station.
The 150-foot tower, or wireless communication facility, at 766 Brigadoon Blvd., will go up 150 feet disguised as a Douglas fir tree with composite plastic and fiberglass branches. Originally the tower was to be 100 feet tall at Clallam County’s set maximum, but developers applied for a conditional use permit and variance to raise it to 150 feet so long as the tower was disguised.
Hearing Examiner William Payne approved the decision in March 2016 and later Clallam County Superior Court Judge Erik Rohrer ruled against a land petition by the Dungeness Heights Homeowners LLC., or DHH, earlier this year.
This allowed cell tower owner Radio Pacific Inc. owned by Brown Maloney and Todd Ortloff to build the tower.
Homeowners protested multiple issues for the tower including it would cut into property values, emit dangerous radiation, be too close to nearby neighbors, and that it would go much higher than specified of nearby trees.
However, the Peninsula Daily News reported that Rohrer said DHH couldn’t prove the tower would hurt property values, and that the tower wouldn’t denounce the county’s code of protecting natural views and local aesthetics.
Rohrer didn’t address health concerns from the tower because they were pre-empted under federal law.
Gerald Steel, an Olympia lawyer representing DHH, said on Oct. 5 that the homeowners have two lawsuits in the Court of Appeals consolidated into one hearing with one challenging the conditional use permit and variance for the tower and the other challenging its building permit.
Steel said a court date hasn’t been set for the appeals, but he anticipates a decision sometime in 2018.
If the homeowners do win in the Court of Appeals, he said they’d ask Radio Pacific Inc. to remove the tower.
Ortloff, general manager for KONP-AM and KSTI-FM in Port Angeles, said they are still working on plans for the FM station (104.9) in Sequim and “haven’t established a timeline yet or made any decisions regarding programming.”
He said Verizon is the first wireless carrier to announce plans to install additional communications equipment on the tower to increase coverage, but he’s not sure when other carriers plan to join, if at all.
As Gunnerson said, he anticipates Verizon customers to have better in-home penetration of wireless service within about 3 miles of the site, which “fills most of the dead holes that aren’t being covered by other sites.”
Clallam County Fire District 3 plans to increase its radio coverage on the tower with a $100-a-year lease agreement. Fire commissioners approved the agreement on Oct. 3, and about $16,000 for a receiver and construction.
Assistant Chief Tony Hudson said the tower will help increase radio frequency in Dungeness and to Sequim.
He said the closest tower they have is at the district’s Station 34 on Fifth Avenue and firefighters have choppy and sometimes broken calls via radio when calling to or in Dungeness.
Hudson said their receiver being installed depends on construction but it’s potentially the beginning of 2018.