West Linn City Council pushes back against emergency communications tower
Local officials and residents are pushing back against the proposed installation of an emergency communications tower near Marylhurst Heights Park in West Linn.
The city of Lake Oswego struck down a similar proposal last year after entering a lease agreement with Clackamas 800, the conglomerate of emergency response agencies trying to bolster emergency communication throughout the county with new and improved towers.
The West Linn City Council heard a presentation from C800 manager John Hartsock at a special meeting Monday, Aug. 3, and made Hardstock aware of its concerns.
C800 — whose members include the West Linn Police Department, Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue and Clackamas County AMR — advocated for a 2016 ballot measure approved by Clackamas County voters, which secured nearly $60 million in funding to improve the region's emergency communications infrastructure by building new communications towers and improving existing ones.
According to Hartsock, C800 hopes to start construction on the West Linn tower, which will sit on land owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation between Gallery Place and Kapteyns Street, later this month. However, city councilors made clear their intent to stop that progress in its path.
"We're going to need to put a timeout on this aggressive schedule," Mayor Russ Axelrod said during the meeting.
Councilor Jules Walters said she was concerned about how close the proposed tower would be to homes and the park.
Several community members also wrote to the council before the meeting to express concerns about the tower.
Interim City Manager John Williams said annexing the land to become part of the city's system of parks and open spaces is mentioned in the 20-year Parks Master Plan, but funds for acquiring the land were never budgeted. Councilors expressed interest in restarting talks to acquire the land.
Hartsock said that a tower in this area of West Linn and Lake Oswego is needed to fill gaps where the range of other communications towers won't reach.
"We have a serious situation of how do we provide adequate coverage for public safety for the citizens of West Linn and Lake Oswego?" he said. "We need to resolve that."
Hartsock also clarified that radiation from the tower would be nonionizing and emissions would be well below the limit imposed by the FCC.
Clackamas County is reviewing a land-use application for the tower, according to Hartsock, with construction set to begin later this month or early in September and finish in October. C800 hopes the new communications system will launch in December or January.
However, the council clearly has its mind set on halting that process. Since the land is not owned by the city and the land-use application is before the county's planning department, the city may be hard pressed to find where it has authority over the tower.
City Attorney Tim Ramis suggested the council "do some homework" before deciding how to go about annexing the land from ODOT.
Hartsock and the councilors expressed a desire to work together to find a solution to the situation.
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