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Is Verizon coming to Juneau?

Planning Commission postpones Verizon's requests for cell tower in Mendenhall area

Posted: November 10, 2011 - 12:05am

Verizon Wireless has contracted a high-speed data tower to be built on Mendenhall Loop Road. WesTower Communications, the contractors, requested a conditional use permit to construct the 119-foot tower from Juneau’s Planning Commission Tuesday night.

If built, the tower would provide smartphone users with access to high-speed data and cellular communication, said Alissa Haynes, spokesperson for WesTower Communications.

Currently there is no service from Verizon in the Juneau area, Haynes said. Verizon is looking at areas to co-locate data antennas with pre-existing towers and places to build new data coverage, she said.

Attempts to reach Verizon Wireless for comment were unsuccessful.

Moving data is big business in Juneau right now. WesTower is considering 12 sites around Juneau for potential tower builds, including a rooftop site downtown and shared tower space on Douglas Island. Haines said WesTower expects to bring additional applications for new tower builds before the Commission in the next 12 months.

Those tower designs call for battery backup power, as opposed to a standard gas generator, to decrease noise in the residential area near Spruce Meadows RV Park.

The conditional use permit proposal shows plans for the proposed telecommunications tower were prepared by KDC Architects, Engineers for Verizon Wireless.

Eric Feldt, planner for Juneau Community Development, testified WesTower Communications would paint the tower, antenna and satellite dish a dark green or dark brown to match the overall background color. Several towers on Douglas Island are painted to match their backgrounds.

The proposed tower location is 90 feet off Mendenhall Loop Road.

Feldt said Juneau’s Community Development Department approved of the project.

The commission postponed Verizon’s tower proposal due to concerns over the impact of electromagnetic radiation on human health. An RV park and private homes are located near the proposed tower site.

Pamela Finley testified about her concern with radiation poisoning.

“I would not buy a house within a mile of one of these things,” Finley said.

Hildegard Sellner, who owns a home on the proposed site, said she is “appalled” at what she has learned about “cell phone towers and cell phone tower politics.”

“I have safety concerns, concerns about the impact on property values, and concerns about the lack of a (City and Borough of Juneau) ordinance regarding tower locations,” Sellner said.

The proposal was postponed pending further information.

Read more about the conditional use permit at bit.ly/uL5Bxk.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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