Parents, neighbors concerned over possible cell tower in NE Bend
60-foot tower would be installed near neighborhood, school
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Some people in an area of northeast Bend are concerned about the possibility of another cell tower going up near a residential neighborhood and school.
The project is still in its early stages. A formal proposal has not yet been presented to the planning commission. Only a pre-application has been filed so far, which happened toward the end of last year.
The 60-foot Verizon Wireless "monopine" cell tower would be placed behind the U.S. Market on Northeast Butler Market Road at Northeast 27th Street. The parcel is owned by O & M Enterprises LLC, but is currently leased by U.S. Market.
Monopine essentially means the tower would look like a pine tree, to hide the equipment.
Several people who live in the area and have children that go to Trinity Lutheran are concerned. The cell tower would be a little more than 300 feet from Trinity Lutheran, which is across the street.
The tower would be less than 100 feet away from the nearest property line. Trygve Bolken owns that house, and he told NewsChannel 21 he’s concerned about the possible health issues related to the tower, not only for himself and his neighbors, but for his 10-year old daughter, who's in fourth grade at Trinity Lutheran.
"Nobody thought smoking was dangerous, and now all of the sudden, we've realized over time that smoking is horrible,” Bolken said Monday.” I feel the same way about these towers. Right now, they're saying they’re not dangerous, and the radiation coming off there dissipates, and it's not going to hurt anybody. I truly believe in time we're going to find out there's potential long-lasting health hazards."
There are conflicting reports regarding any health issues related to cell towers. The American Cancer Society said “most scientists agree that cell phone antennas or towers are unlikely to cause cancer.”
Bolken believes a cell tower would also ruin the aesthetics of the area and lower his property value.
This comes only a few months after another controversial cell tower went up near Elk Meadow Elementary in Bend late 2019. The tower was met with major concern from parents of students at the school, but after months of deliberation, it was built anyway.
Bend city officials adopted a resolution following that battle, requesting the federal government update studies on potential health effects of wireless emissions, if carriers want to continue to deploy these towers.
Even with that resolution, Bend Mayor Sally Russell said Monday there’s not much the city can do. She said local governments do not have the power under federal rules to adopt regulations that prevent cell towers from going near neighborhoods or schools. However, there are provisions in place that can make the process harder and more expensive for carriers, with the hopes by critics that it will steer them in a different direction.
In this commercial zone, those provisions include the tower being no taller than 35 feet, and at least 500 feet away from a residential zone, for a path to outright approval.
Since the proposed tower would be 60 feet tall, and is within 500 feet of a neighborhood, that would trigger a conditional use permit and a public hearing.
"If it's defined by the FCC what we can and can't do, and our city codes basically take that all into account, there's nothing else we can do, except move forward with the process,” Russell said. “As a local elected official, I can't make rules that are in conflict with national rules and policies. This one is really tough, because we've heard from so many people, but the rules are made at the national level, not at the local level."
Russell suggests citizens should reach out to their Congressmen, the FCC and Verizon Wireless if they have concerns.
NewsChannel 21 is still waiting for a comment from both Trinity Lutheran and Verizon Wireless. Acom Consulting, which is representing Verizon Wireless in this case, will be at a public meeting planned Tuesday evening to listen to supporters and opponents.
The meeting is at 7 p.m. in the Mountain View High School cafeteria.