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Resident has negative reception for cell tower

Health issues, ugliness, property value of concern
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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An Auburn resident is appealing a decision made by the Auburn Planning Commission to allow a 78-foot AT&T cell phone tower to be constructed 75 feet from his residence. O.C. Taylor lives on Borland Avenue in the city of Auburn. Taylor is a former city councilman and mayor. On Feb. 2 the Auburn Planning Commission approved a six-month height variance for a 78-foot AT&T monopine tower to go in at the property of 169 Borland Avenue. On Sept. 7 the Planning Commission extended the height variance for a year. Taylor is appealing that decision to the Auburn City Council. According to Lance Lowe, associate planner for the city of Auburn, this particular monopine is well constructed to minimize the potential of being an eyesore. “There are some good examples (of monopines) in the area, and there are some really horrific examples,” Lowe said. “They have conditioned it to look like one of the better examples.” Although Taylor discussed a smaller distance between the tower and his home with the Journal Tuesday, city maps state the distance is 75 feet. Taylor said he has several objections to the tower being built near his residence, which is next to the construction site, including the fact that he served on the city council and now isn’t being treated like an equal citizen of Auburn. “Let me put it this way – I spent years on the council, and I have lived here all my life, and I want to be treated as fair as everyone else, fair and simple,” Taylor said. “One of the biggest problems that I have had being on the City Council and living here is that when one person has to fight the city it’s hard, but when it affects more, 20 or 30 people, (the city is) more careful.” Taylor said he is also concerned about the health of those around the tower because of the radio frequencies it will emit. “I have got right in front of me on the Internet (a site) where a doctor has a study about this (kind of) tower and cell phones in general, and they are bad for your health,” he said. “It’s not true that it’s harmless at all. It hasn’t been proved one way or the other.” Declining property values are also a potential problem, Taylor said. He said his neighbor, a retired real estate agent, told him his property value would go down by about $15,000. “There is no doubt about it,” he said. “It will lower the value of my property a great deal.” Gary Clark, who owns the automobile service company Renn Tech on Borland Avenue, said he has similar concerns about the tower. “I believe, No. 1, one of the things that kind of upset all the people around here was no one asked our opinion before it was done with,” Clark said. “I quite honestly think a cell phone tower … No. 1 is kind of an atrocity, and the health risks, no one really gave anyone any information. I have looked at some books out there, and there is some literature out there saying cell phones can give you cancer. I just think there is a better place where they can put it where it wouldn’t be so intrusive.” Jacob Reeves, a contractor for the Lyle Company, which is representing AT&T on the project, said the Auburn Community Development Department suggested the Borland address as a possible place for the tower during the application process. Lowe said a site is chosen based on the coverage area of the antennae to be installed after it has been determined that the antennae could not share a pre-existing tower. Reeves said the location is ideal because of the coverage area it can support. “It provides coverage for us down the canyon, all the commercial area and over to (Interstate) 80,” Reeves said. “There is a lot of activity down in the canyon. Right now, too, we don’t have good in-building coverage in that whole area.” According to city documents, a Radio Frequency Analysis conducted by AT&T at the address found that the emissions from the tower antennae would only produce .05 percent of the existing accepted standard for general population uncontrolled exposure to radio waves at ground level. “They are way below the threshold of where they could go,” Lowe said. “The analysis shows very little impact.” Taylor said he doesn’t agree with the findings of the study and plans to bring a book to Monday night’s City Council meeting in which two doctors outline the affects radio waves can have on humans. “That is his answer,” he said. “That is not the answer that you can trust, that it won’t have any impact.” Borland Avenue resident George Harrison said he opposes the project because it is so close to Taylor’s house, and because AT&T didn’t seem to realize it was building the tower on fill ground, which he considers unstable. “At that (Planning Commission) meeting they had … the people from AT&T said they didn’t even know it was on fill,” Harrison said. Patti Mason, who owns M Tek Corporation at 169 Borland Avenue and leases the property from private landowner Nancy Swanson, said she is all for the tower because it would allow people in the canyon to call out if they were hurt. “That is our biggest thing in supporting it is people being able to get into the canyon … and being able to call (someone if they need to),” Mason said. “That is a huge thing for us.” Multiple attempts to reach Swanson at her number in Idaho were unsuccessful Tuesday afternoon. In a Sept. 2 letter to Reeves, Taylor suggested moving the site of the tower to his commercial property at 173 Borland Avenue. At this location the tower would be about 150 feet away from Taylor’s home, according to city maps. Taylor said he still disagrees with the tower, but the greater distance between the monopine and his home would make him feel more comfortable. Taylor’s appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of the tower is scheduled for Monday’s City Council meeting. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com