'It was a boo-boo'

A 130-foot communications tower for Medford police and fire could be torn down after the city decided not to appeal a state Land Use Board of Appeals ruling that the structure was built too close to homes.

City officials have not discussed their plans in a public session, but the city did not file an appeal on the LUBA ruling within the required 21 days, which concluded Wednesday. The tower was the subject of a closed executive session earlier this month.

City Councilman Jim Kuntz said Wednesday he was personally not in favor of appealing the LUBA ruling on the tower, which cost $60,000 to raise on Capital Hill in east Medford. Kuntz said he thought it was in the best interests of the community to start over.

"At this point, I think we should just fix the problem," he said. "It was done with the best of intentions, but it was a boo-boo."

The city erected the tower in December 2010 to provide a back-up communication system for police and fire. The tower, which never became operational because of the appeal, was planned to replace a 60-foot tower to the south on the same 8-acre property, owned by the Medford Water Commission.

Neighbors complained that the tower was an eyesore and that they didn't receive any notice from the city before it was erected.

Early this year, they appealed the decision to the City Council, which reaffirmed the city planning department's approval of the tower without public notification.

City officials, including former Police Chief Randy Schoen, have apologized to residents for the failure to notify them about the tower before it was built.

Schoen previously indicated that moving the tower farther up the hill and away from the homes could cost as much as $180,000.

Kuntz said he thinks the slab that supports the tower will have to be abandoned. LUBA said the city failed to meet the minimum setback of 61.5 feet and instead built the tower only 53 feet from a nearby property line.

"We will try and deal with the setback requirement and deal with the costs," Kuntz said.

Kuntz said no decision had been made on whether the city would try to erect a new tower or whether it would explore other technological solutions.

He said he didn't have any cost estimates to remove the tower and erect a new structure.

Buzz Thielemann, an east Medford resident who filed the LUBA appeal, said the city should explore other options rather than building another tall tower nearby. He said neighbors had already spent $14,000 in legal fees to fight the city.

"Obviously, if it's just moved, that's not a resolution," said Thielemann, whose home sits immediately below the tower on the hillside.

He said technology is advancing so rapidly that other solutions could present themselves for providing back-up communications for emergency services.

"Things you couldn't do a year ago, you can do now," he said.

In the LUBA appeal, Thielemann argued that the city made eight errors in deciding to approve the tower's construction.

The state board ruled in favor of the city on seven of the eight issues, saying it only erred in not providing sufficient setback for the tower.

LUBA's ruling also concluded the city wasn't required to undergo a public notification process to build the tower.

City Councilman Bob Strosser said he was not personally in favor of appealing the LUBA decision, noting the deadline had passed, and the council took no public position supporting an appeal.

Strosser said he couldn't say what steps would be taken to devise another option for emergency communication.

"Obviously, it's something that's going to be discussed," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com.

Share This Story