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County, applicants disagree over need for new Welches cell tower

Clackamas County is reviewing the proposed installation of a wireless telecommunication tower at the Welches Fire Station located on the south side of Highway 26, just west of the intersection of Salmon River Road and Highway 26.

The tower’s applicants — American Tower, AT&T Wireless and Hoodland Fire District No. 74 — have proposed building the 100-foot tower in order to fill a gap in service along Highway 26.

Building a new cell tower requires that service must cover new areas, not just enhance existing service, according to the Clackamas County code.

While there are no existing towers or support structures in the geographical area, the Clackamas County planning and zoning staff does not believe the tower would provide a substantial coverage difference, and the hearings officer may request additional evidence from the applicants, according to the planning and zoning staff report and recommendation to the hearings officer.

According to the same report, though, the applicants have demonstrated a gap in service. The applicants also proved that building the tower on an existing BPA communication tower north of the Welches Fire Station would not meet the engineering requirements or fill the gap in service.

The Villages at Mount Hood directors are in support of the tower, while the county planning and zoning staff recommended that the proposal be denied.

A meeting was held on Sept. 6, which allowed residents who live within the boundaries of the Hoodland community to comment on the tower proposal.

The hearings officer left the record open, giving the applicants until Oct. 4 to submit additional evidence.