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Proposed cell tower: Lightning rod for concern

Citing concerns about health and property values, homeowners south of Oregon City are rallying against a cell phone company’s proposal to build a new tower in advance of a conditional-use hearing at 11 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 19.

Clackamas County’s hearings officer will listen to arguments from both sides in the auditorium of the Development Services Building, 150 Beavercreek Road. AT&T hopes to cut down on the number of dropped calls in the area, while neighbors believe that the tower would be incompatible with current uses in the region they love for its “rural feel.”

John Martinson, co-chairman of the Central Point CPO, called a meeting Dec. 4, when citizens came together for a consensus against AT&T’s proposal.

“The benefits would go to the landowner in monthly payments and to AT&T, but the vast majority of people in our area would suffer losses in property values and possible health effects,” Martinson said.

Barbara Theroux, who owns the spot on the north side of New Era Road approximately 80 feet west of the intersection with Parrot Creek Road, did not attend the Dec. 4 meeting or respond to calls for comment.

AT&T is proposing to install a new 150-foot monopole with 12 antennas and a shelter for support equipment inside a 50-foot-square fenced and landscaped compound. A new access drive also would have to be built to get to the site at 12663 S. New Era Road.

AT&T found a weak spot in its coverage there, and the company’s marketing targets competitors by saying it has better cell-phone reception. According to its application, AT&T says that it may contract with other phone companies to allow them use of the site. An AT&T representative declined to comment further.

“Planning staff finds this use will not substantially limit, impair or preclude the use of surrounding properties,” wrote Clackamas County Senior Planner Linda Preisz.

About fifteen opposition letters from neighbors will be included in the Planning and Zoning Division’s recommendation to approve the application. Sheila Hornocker, a neighbor who is helping lead a petition drive, thinks that momentum could turn back in favor of local residents.

“We have 30 to 40 signatures already, but we’re planning to expand this effort to the whole Oregon City community,” Hornocker said. “Everyone loves that spot that’s higher up than anything else around it, and now it’s going to stick out like a sore thumb.”

She just purchased a home a few months ago for her 55-year-old husband and their 29-year-old son to recover from battles with cancer. Although their cases have gone into remission, Hornocker fears their cancer likely would reappear if AT&T builds a tower in their backyard.

“The rays will go directly into our bedroom, and we are very concerned,” she said. “Our family has already had enough cancer, and now to have it constantly invading our home and those of our neighbors doesn’t seem right.”

She also says her daughter might have to give up on her horseback riding and the new track they just built on their property. Her 10-year-old daughter has been regularly riding her horse within feet of the proposed tower site.