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Neighbors block AT&T cell tower proposal

State board decides on property's use, not its potentially declining value -


Beavercreek neighbors will have plenty of cause to celebrate after the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals decision released Tuesday to remand Clackamas County’s approval of an AT&T cell phone tower.

Clackamas County’s recent approval of the AT&T proposal just outside of Oregon City met plenty of backlash from homeowners surrounding the would-be 150-foot structure. Now with the state decision, county and AT&T officials will have to go back to their drawing boards.

Milwaukie attorney Scott Barbur was hired to represent the homeowner/petitioner on the appeal, and they had a hearing in front of LUBA on June 5. Neighbors were concerned the tower would tarnish their beautiful farmlands, subject them to radiation exposure and benefit a registered sex offender.

They filed an appeal to the Land Use Board of Appeals on March 19, and the case was called “Morton vs. Clackamas County,” after lead neighborhood organizer Cindy Morton. Morton and 52 other local residents signed a petition to appeal the proposal at 12663 New Era Road.

Clackamas County had granted a conditional use under its Zoning and Development Ordinance that stipulated that the proposed use could “not alter the character of the surrounding area in a manner that substantially limits, impairs or precludes the use of surrounding properties.”

In its July 8 decision, LUBA agreed with the Beavercreek neighbors that the Clackamas County hearings officer never addressed whether the visual impacts of the proposal would limit or impair their rural residences.

“This is a win for all Clackamas County property owners because it greatly broadens the scope in which the county must review applications for conditional uses that may be out of place within a neighborhood,” Barbur said.

“Before, the county simply made the assumption that a property would still be usable as a residence in the face of something as imposing as a cell tower. It essentially stripped the neighboring properties of any real argument against placement of a cell tower in their neighborhood. I think that after this opinion the county will need to take a much broader look at where they are placing these towers and how they affect the neighboring properties involved.”

In its application, AT&T justified the proposal by saying it was the best place to locate the tower in order to improve cell-phone reception in the area. Although many neighbors in the area were fearful their home value would plummet after the cell-tower construction, LUBA decided that resale value could not be a factor in this type of planning decision.

The AT&T tower would have been on the property of Barbara Theroux, who cohabitates with registered sex offender Stanley Riedel, 62. Because AT&T would be using her property, Theroux would receive compensation from AT&T, and she did not respond to calls for comment, nor was this a consideration for LUBA.

If neighbors had it their way, the tower would instead be placed on the property of Orvall and Grace Cade about a half a mile away from their home.

What about McLoughlin's proposed tower?

Tom O'Brien, co-chairman of the Hazel Grove-Westling Farm Neighborhood, invites all citizens to share their opinions and concerns at a 7 p.m. neighborhood meeting Thursday, July 17, at Oregon City United Methodist Church, 18955 S. South End Road.

“The request for a conditional use to build a tower on the school property appears to be a controversial topic,” O'Brien said.

In addition to discussing the cellular tower adjacent to McLoughlin Elementary School, he will be hosting Maureen Cole, Oregon City Library director, and Sid Scott of Scott Edwards Architecture who are working on the Oregon City Library expansion project and looking for citizen input regarding what folks would like to see in the new addition and remodel of the century-old Carnegie structure.