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Permit for Spuhn Is. cell tower approved

Posted: October 25, 2012 - 11:06pm

Verizon took one more step into Juneau’s broadband market with approval of its permit to build a 155-foot communications tower on Spuhn Island.

The City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission approved a Conditional Use Permit application Tuesday evening for Westower Communications to erect a telecommunications tower and diesel power facility on a vacant utility parcel owned by Spuhn Island Development, LLC.

This is the third cell tower permit Verizon has sought here in Juneau, after a 70-foot tower near Auke Bay and a 120-foot tower in the Mendenhall Valley area. Broadband carriers are also known to share towers already in place.

Verizon has said it is bringing its 4G LTE service to Alaska, but has not been able to predict if or when it will roll out service to Juneau. Currently Verizon customer calls are routed through Alaska Communications cell towers.

The Spuhn Island site would accommodate a 10-foot by 24-foot shed to house the generator and telecom equipment within a 50-foot by 50-foot chain link fence. The steel lattice tower is 150 feet tall with a five foot antenna atop. The completed structure, rising from a ground level of 150 feet, would reach 305 feet above sea level.

“…The tower will extend approximately 45-75 feet above the tree line depending on the angle of view,” according to the permit application.

The site plan was prepared for Verizon Wireless by KDC Architects Engineers P.C.

The tower will be located on the southern end of Spuhn Island and would fill in a blind spot for cellular phone uses in Young Bay and Horse, Admiralty and Shelter Islands.

The application was delayed for several months as CBJ staff ironed out conflicting information from agencies within the Federal Aviation Administration and new information from local pilots and the city-owned Juneau International Airport.

Local pilot, Doug Wahto wrote letters to the FAA in which he said the tower could create a flight hazard in cloudy conditions when pilots are forced to fly low over Spuhn Island. He recommended the tower have lighting at top and an orange and white paint scheme to improve visibility.

The FAA Flight Standards Regional Office All Weather Operations Program Manager Michael Bowers and FAA certification inspector at the Juneau airport also said the tower should have lighting and high-visibility paint.

At least five locals living near the proposed tower site submitted letters of concern about the affects of the tower to their viewshed and property values.

Westower provided a report from Horan & Company, LLC that said the tower would not decrease property values and instead could be beneficial.

CBJ staff recommended the city, prior to issuing a building permit, require the applicant to provide certification that the structure meets Federal Communications Commission electromagnetic radiation levels and submit a noise study for the facility.

CBJ staff said the medium-intensity flashing strobe on top of Spuhn tower will be of the same intensity as the one on top of KINY tower.

CBJ Planning Manager Greg Chaney said in a phone interview that the CBJ is currently developing a master plan for wireless communications towers in Juneau.

“That’s the goal, but that is a challenging goal,” Chaney said.

The plan is still in the early stages of development, Chaney said. He said the city contracted a report that gave suggestions not appropriate to Juneau, so it is still being edited.

“It’s not appropriate to take it to the public right now,” Chaney said.

The plan would help guide tower permitting in the future, said Hal Hart, the city’s community development director. The city is preparing for continued investment in broadband communications in the region, he said, following an international trend.

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

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