Do the right thing

Medford city officials have the opportunity to make amends for their ill-advised decision to build a 130-foot communications tower next to homes on Capital Hill in east Medford. They should take it, not try to finesse their way out of it.

The whole mess began when the city began building the tower without notifying nearby property owners. Notification would have been required for a privately owned structure, but because the tower is intended for emergency communications use by police and other agencies, it was exempt from public participation rules.

It was not, however, exempt from setback rules that require at least 61.5 feet between the tower and the nearest property line. The unfinished tower is only 53 feet from the nearest neighbor's fence.

Neighbors appealed the city's action to the City Council, which upheld the planning department's decision to approve the tower without public notification.

Neighbors took the case to the state Land Use Board of Appeals, which ruled earlier this month that the city violated the setback rule. LUBA ruled against the neighbors on seven other arguments.

The City Council is expected to decide by Wednesday whether to appeal the LUBA ruling.

Council members should not appeal the case further. They should acknowledge the city's mistake and take steps to fix it.

That doesn't mean moving the tower a few feet to comply with the setback rule. It means starting over and coming up with a new location that everyone can live with.

The new tower is intended to replace an existing 60-foot tower on another part of the 8-acre parcel of land owned by the Medford Water Commission. If it is not possible to put the new tower in the same spot, a new location should be found that has the least possible visual impact on nearby residences.

The city was right to use property that was already in public ownership to keep costs down. But city officials should have made sure all the affected neighbors were informed and given the opportunity to be heard — even if the law does not require it.

Whatever solution is finally chosen, it is likely to be expensive. That's unfortunate but unavoidable, in our view.

The city should take its lumps and do the right thing — and take steps to avoid making the same mistake in the future.

Share This Story