Cell tower continued again

Council members express frustration over last-minute request
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Borland Avenue residents and business owners still don’t know if a 78-foot monopine cell phone tower will rise in their neighborhood. The Auburn City Council continued the topic indefinitely per a request from AT&T. Neighbors on the street have expressed concerns in the past about their property values dropping, potential exposure to radio frequencies and ugliness of the tower, which would be constructed at 169 Borland Ave. Representatives from AT&T have said the location is ideal for the tower, because it would expand the company’s cell phone coverage into the canyon and Downtown Auburn. Jacob Reeves, a contractor for the Lyle Company, which represents AT&T on the project, said AT&T requested Monday the item be continued to a later date, but that the company did not give specific information as to why. “We have been directed today from AT&T corporate to continue this, and so we are proposing this,” Reeves said Monday night. “We were all ready to go ahead until we received that direction.” Mayor Bill Kirby asked Reeves if he could still go over the presentation he had prepared if the council decided not to continue the issue. “I can go over it, but they have asked to continue it,” Reeves said. Kirby said ultimately that decision was not up to AT&T. “That is a council decision,” he said. Michael Colantuono, Auburn’s city attorney, said his guess was that AT&T expected some litigation to come from a future decision about the tower, and so the company might have been hoping for more time to prepare. Kirby said he was very disappointed in AT&T’s last-minute decision, and he strongly encouraged Reeves to relay that to the company. “And the day of the meeting?” Kirby asked. “It couldn’t have been done sooner?” Colantuono said according to state law, the applicants for these types of telecommunications projects, or in this case AT&T, are able to stall deadlines the city is expected to meet during the process, but no one else can, including anyone who might appeal the project. O.C. Taylor, who appealed the Auburn Planning Commission’s September approval of the tower’s height variance, said he disagreed with the continuance, because people in the audience were ready to talk about the tower Monday. Taylor, a former city councilman, also said his inability to ask for a continuance as easily as AT&T made him feel like a second-class citizen. This is the fourth time the potential cell tower has been continued on City Council agendas. Councilwoman Bridget Powers said she had hoped AT&T was using the previous continuance, which was put in place in November, to speak to neighbors and try to find a solution to the disagreement. Reeves said AT&T had not directed him either way. Councilman Kevin Hanley said it would be unfair for the council to go ahead with the topic, as the city is usually satisfied to grant continuances when they are requested. Hanley said anyone interested in the issue could just come back when the cell tower reappears on the agenda. “We are not on a time line from a council point of view,” he said. Someone in the audience voiced their disagreement with Hanley’s statement. “We are ready now,” the woman stated. Councilman Mike Holmes said he would not support a continuance. “I know we have a number of people here tonight who are here to either oppose or support the issue,” Holmes said. “I’m just disappointed AT&T has chosen at the last minute to request a continuance.” Colantuono said staff might have to create the environmental document for the project all over again, and then the process would start again from the beginning, eventually reaching City Council. Council members approved the continuance in a 4-1 vote. Holmes voted no. For more on the City Council meeting, see Wednesday’s edition of the Journal. Reach Bridget Jones at