This composite image shows a rendering of what a proposed radio and cellphone tower could look like at the site north of Sequim. (Image courtesy Bryon Gunnerson)

This composite image shows a rendering of what a proposed radio and cellphone tower could look like at the site north of Sequim. (Image courtesy Bryon Gunnerson)

Judge to rule after Jan. 1 on radio, cellphone tower near Sequim

PORT ANGELES — Judgment will be rendered after the first of the year on whether a 15-story radio and cellphone tower dressed up as a fir tree should be allowed north of Sequim.

Clallam County Superior Court Judge Erik Rohrer heard arguments Tuesday before predicting he would decide on the land-use petition after Jan. 1.

“I need to find some time and just get to the bottom of this,” Rohrer said.

Rohrer added he wants to drive by the 686 Brigadoon Road site “and kind of visualize” what the project would look like.

The tower will cost an estimated $500,000, including at least $200,000 to design and build a faux tree and about $300,000 for the tower and radio equipment, project consultant Bryon Gunnerson of Gunnerson Consulting &Communication Site Services of Sequim said Wednesday.

Opponents of the project have asked the Federal Communications Commission to conduct an environmental assessment of the project, Diane Hood of Sequim said Wednesday.

The petition was filed by Dungeness Heights Homeowners (DHH), a nonprofit incorporated a week before county Hearing Examiner William Payne approved a conditional use permit and variance March 8 that allowed the addition of 50 feet to an already approved — although unbuilt — 100-foot tower.

The petition to reverse Payne’s decision was filed against Radio Pacific Inc., land owner Shirley J. Tjemsland, and T-Mobile West LLC.

The tower is opposed by DHH as an eyesore, health hazard and negative influence on property values.

It was proposed by Radio Pacific Inc., owned by Sequim businessman Brown Maloney.

Radio Pacific owns and operates KONP AM-FM and KSTI-FM, both of Port Angeles.

KONP General Manager Todd Ortloff also would manage the radio station that would broadcast from the new tower, Ortloff said Wednesday.

A decision has not been made about programming, he said.

Ortloff said health concerns of DHH are already addressed under Federal Communications Commission rules.

Hood was not mollified by the tower being camouflaged as a fir tree.

“This is such a beautiful neighborhood, it seems like there should be an alternative spot other than someone’s backyard,” she said.

In his ruling, Payne said the area already had been approved as a site for the tower and that he had not been provided with area-specific evidence that property values would go down if the tower goes up.

The homeowners group, formed in part “to protect the health of human and all lower life forms from harmful influences including electromagnetic pollution,” according to its land-use petition, was represented Tuesday by Gerald Steel of Olympia.

He told Rohrer the tower project violates setback rules and that it would disrupt the verdant views of Brigadoon Boulevard residents.

“There is not substantial evidence in record to support that there will not be a loss of property value,” Steel added.

Lakewood attorney Eric Quinn and Clallam County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Alvarez argued before Rohrer that the permit and variance should stand.

“The highest and best use of that property is not a residence,” Alvarez said. “It’s actually a wireless tower.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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