Moscow City Council shuts down 80-foot ‘tree’ tower

This rendering of the proposed stealth-style monopine tower shows how it would be camouflaged as a tree.

The idea of an 80-foot wireless communication tower proposed to be constructed on the northwest corner of the Church of the Nazarene in a residential southeastern Moscow neighborhood was shot down again Monday night — this time by the Moscow City Council.

In November, the Moscow Board of Adjustment unanimously denied a conditional use permit applied for by ProLand LLC because the board determined the tower would not be in harmony with the neighborhood and surrounding land uses — the second criteria of the Relevant Criteria and Standards the permit would need to meet to be approved.

The applicant appealed the board’s decision in late November, leaving the decision to the City Council to sustain the board’s ruling, reverse it or remand the matter back to the board for further consideration.

The six councilors unanimously sustained the board’s decision Monday.

“I would have a hard time disagreeing with their assessment,” Councilor Brandy Sullivan said.

City Supervisor Gary Riedner told the Daily News after the meeting the applicant can appeal the council’s decision to Idaho’s 2nd Judicial District Court.

The tower would accommodate three carriers within a fully enclosed 800-square-foot lease area, but T-Mobile is the only carrier signed up so far. The facility would be designed to resemble a tree.

City Planner Leah Carlson said the application met all eight of the city’s development standards.

Sullivan commented that the tower would be 40 percent higher than the tallest tree in the area and almost 200 percent higher than the 30-foot homes in the neighborhood.

“That’s a significant difference to me,” she said.

Councilor Art Bettge said while all standards had been met, the aesthetics and the neighbors who spoke Monday night and at the Board of Adjustment public hearing in November troubled him.

“Neighbors who are going to have to live with this in the indefinite future have a different opinion of what the aesthetic appeal and whether it fits in with the neighborhood actually is,” Bettge said.

Councilor Gina Taruscio commended the applicant for looking to make the tower appealing, but she added “that is not a characteristic of that neighborhood at all, and so it stands out as an eyesore.”

More than a dozen people spoke in opposition to the permit in November, and 12 of those lived within one-quarter mile of the proposed tower, Carlson said.

Those who spoke against the permit cited aesthetic, property value, health concerns from electromagnetic radiation and potential noise issues as reasons for their disapproval.

Eleven of those who spoke in November spoke Monday night.

Richard Busch, who represented ProLand LLC, said there are no other feasible sites in the city to put the tower, which would be 85-feet tall.

“Any time you bring utility improvements to a community, they’re going to be visible,” he said. “You have the electric power transmission lines along Mountain View (Road). You drive past them, you see them, but people recognize them as part of the community.”

In other business, the council approved Councilor Jim Boland as council president and Sullivan as vice president for 2019. Councilors Kathryn Bonzo and Taruscio served as president and vice president, respectively, last year.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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