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Public comments on Montana Creek cell tower

Residents not sure about proposed AT&T antenna

Posted: August 16, 2012 - 12:08am

Commissioners heard mixed signals as it took public testimony on a proposed Montana Creek cell tower Tuesday night.

City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission heard public comment on a proposal to permit an AT&T broadband tower in the Montana Creek area of the Mendenhall Valley. The Commission called up conditional use permit USE2012-09 to solicit public testimony.

The body had agreed in advance to continue the permit to a later meeting. The project is expected to occupy a 34-foot by 34-foot footprint. The area is zoned D-1 and is situated 380 feet from Montana Creek Road, off Mendenhall Road. The monopole is 100 feet tall with a 5-foot lighting rod for 105 feet total.

AT&T plans an antenna at 97 feet.  The tower can later hold an antenna at 79-feet and one at 89-feet.

CBJ Planner Laura Boyce said city staff recommended passage of the permit with a few caveats. Boyce said staff recommended the permit holder be required to submit expert testimony that the tower meets Federal Communication Commission levels for electromagnetic radio emissions. CBJ staff would also get last say on the tower’s camouflaging paint color.

The 5.78-acre site doesn’t have many neighbors. Concerned with finding enough concerned residents, CBJ staff notified residents over six times further out than is typically necessary.

“We appreciate the extended notice,” Commissioner Michael Satre said. Becky Bear said she has lived in the neighbor hood for over three decades.

She has waited for broadband coverage for a while, she said. She said extended cell coverage would help her with her business and taxi job. “It is time we were allowed to come into the 20th century,” Bear said.

Cell towers are not attractive, Bear said, but “we’re all pretty happy electric poles were put in.”

Jackie Stewart lives on Arctic Circle, just at the corner of a site map on the overhead projector. Stewart said she would rather be doing other things, than testifying Tuesday night. “But when I see something that is affecting my neighborhood, I do research,” Stewart said.

Stewart testified about her concern over communication radiation. She compared cell tower broadband signals to asbestos as a cause for cancer. And she cited the unknown.

“We don’t know the health concerns,” Stewart said. “If you pass this I’m selling my house” she said to the commission.

Stewart said she’s not a Luddite. “I have a cell phone,” Stewart said. “They are very useful, for a lot of things.”

She said the Planning Commission needs more information before it can act.

“Can we have a tower near Floyd Dryden School?” Stewart said. “We are all guinea pigs.”

Commissioner Satre said public comment can be reopened for new testimony when the commission hears the plan at it next meeting, Aug. 28.

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

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