A request to build a 49-foot cellphone tower on a lot near McGee Elementary School and park will go before the Pasco Planning Commission tonight.
Verizon Wireless has applied for a special permit to install the “stealth monopole antenna support structure and associated ground-based equipment” in a suburban zone.
The tower would be built in a fenced, landscaped area just east of the potable water reservoir on the northeast corner of Desert Plateau and Horizon drives, according to a staff report prepared for the planning commission.
The 7 p.m. meeting will be held at Pasco City Hall, 525 N. Third Ave. This is the only time for the public — whether residents of the surrounding neighborhood or parents of McGee students — to give input on the issue.
After tonight’s public hearing, board members will review the permit and public comments and make a decision at the Aug. 20 meeting.
At least a couple dozen residents of the neighborhood have signed a petition opposing the proposed site.
“We find it disturbing that the city has already spent taxpayer dollars preparing the site for the tower by removing a large tree and constructing a fence and gate prior to conducting the public hearing,” wrote Karras and Ethan Brackenbury in a letter to the city.
The Sedona Drive residents say electromagnetic radiation can be “dangerous to human health,” and point out that children use the nearby park year-round for soccer, baseball and other activities. The Brackenburys say the tower will be within 300 feet of the playfield, yet European health studies conclude that towers should not be closer than 1,300 feet.
The proposed site would be a few feet northeast of an existing 30-foot tall radio communication tower used by Pasco’s Public Works Department to monitor and control valves, pumps and equipment related to the delivery of water and sewer services in the city, the report says.
However, the proposed Verizon tower would be “painted in a color to blend in with the sky,” according to Pasco staff.
Verizon reportedly has a coverage gap between Roads 36 and 44, and is hoping a new tower would better support the wireless company’s existing users while also bringing in new customers.
Pasco Municipal Code says if a proposed wireless communication facility is closer than 500 feet from a residential district, or if it is not in a certain zoning district, the applicant must locate the tower on publicly owned property and get approval with a special permit.
Verizon also has submitted paperwork to the Federal Aviation Administration showing that the tower would not interfere with airspace or airport operations, and reportedly is awaiting approval.
“Typical neighborhood concerns expressed over proposed cell towers in the past have included fear of electromagnetic radio waves and the unsightliness of tall towers within the neighborhood,” the staff report said. “Under federal regulations, cities are barred from considering electromagnetic radio waves in the permitting process for cell towers.”
Staff, addressing possible height concerns, said the 49-foot tower would be less than 20 feet taller than street lights in the neighborhood. The tower also would be located more than 100 feet from a property line or street, and the “stealth” designation means all wiring and antennas would be hidden from view for surrounding residents, according to the report.