Update on the proposed idea of a Canyon Ferry Cell Phone Tower

Real Estate Agent with Century 21 Heritage Realty

"Most of the people who commented Tuesday on a proposed cell tower at the north end of Canyon Ferry Reservoir agreed that it’s needed, but some asked that the site be moved so it wouldn't interfere as much with views of the water and surrounding mountains. Steve Mosby said he owns property within a few thousand feet of the proposed cell tower site, which he’s offered to Verizon as an alternative to the current proposed location. As the proposal stands, the tower would sit directly in front of where John Cribb has plans to construct a home. The site is north of Canyon Ferry Road and east of O’Malley’s Pub and Restaurant. “Steve’s site … puts the tower off to the right of me and solves the issue completely,” Cribb told Lewis and Clark County Commissioners Andy Hunthausen and Derek Brown. “There’s already access and power there and we think it would be an excellent site for the tower.” Mosby said he had proposed it to Verizon representatives years ago, but Paul Slotemaker with RealCom Associates — which is representing Verizon under this proposal — said he hadn’t heard anything about the proposal and didn’t recognize the names of people Mosby said he talked to. “I’m not an employee of Verizon; I know folks who contact properties regarding wireless communication,” Slotemaker said. “I’m not sure if there’s some confusion on whether they’re talking to Verizon or some other wireless company, but I don’t know the names he mentioned.” Hunthausen recommended that Slotemaker get together with some of the neighbors to see if they could work something out. Others at the meeting stressed how important it is to have cell phone communication in the area for emergencies. Caron Griffith noted how her vehicle plunged down a steep cliff in 2007, seriously injuring her, and although she had a cell phone with her she didn’t have any reception. “It’s only by the grace of God that I’m here,” Griffith said. “For safety and for health reasons, the cell tower would be most appropriate.” As of Monday, the county planning office had received 42 comments in favor of the proposal, as well as five petitions, and 37 opposed to it. While the debate has centered about whether to allow installation of the 197-foot-tower, Tuesday’s hearing was focused on two proposed variances for William Morey’s 70-acre property. He wants to carve off a 2,998-square-foot parcel to lease or convey to Verizon Wire for the tower, but in order to do so needs variances requiring landscaping around a fence surrounding the tower and adjacent utility building, and not having to provide water for fire protection. Slotemaker told the commission that the structures will have their own chemical fire retardation system, which has been endorsed by Tri-Lakes Fire Chief Bob Drake. “He suggested it to me when I was preparing the application,” Slotemaker said. Brown said that made sense, but seemed a little more hesitant about the proposal to have a chain-link fence with earth-toned slats around the structure instead of foliage to screen it from the neighbors. “It seems like to grant a variance there needs to be a hardship for you, but it seems like a greater hardship for the neighbors, screening residential from commercial,” Brown said. “I don’t know that you can screen it entirely but you could make some attempt.” Slotemaker said it wasn’t realistic to plant trees or shrubs in an area where it’s mainly a high-mountain desert. The commissioner closed the public hearing, but won’t make a decision on the request for the variances until their May 24 meeting, which Commissioner Mike Murray can be present. He’s attending a governmental conference in New Mexico all week. Reporter Eve Byron: 447-4076 or eve.byron@helenair.com Follow Eve on Twitter at IR_EveByron "

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