Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Defaced for chump change

Bellevue just voted to deface itself for chump change.

For up to $15,000 a year in promised lease fees, the Bellevue City Council voted to lease city land for a 100-foot-tall cell tower just 50 yards from Main Street.

It threw out its own Planning and Zoning Commission's rejection of the tower because it exceeds a 40-foot height limit.

It's not that Bellevue has no cell phone service—it does. The decision turned on money for the cash-strapped city and communications dead spots in outlying canyons—even though every canyon in the Wood River Valley has dead spots, and even though the deal is with a tower company and not a cell phone company.

The ordinance that restricts cell towers to 40 feet is sound because they can be camouflaged as any number of unobtrusive structures. Reaching outlying canyons requires multiple, shorter towers with less visual impact.

Bellevue prides itself on being home to sensible hard-working residents and light-industrial businesses that support the northern resort areas and contribute to a neat, utilitarian atmosphere.

It's the first Wood River Valley town visitors drive into from the south. With more restaurants and retail operations than at any time in the last 30 years, the town that once had more sleeping dogs than visitors is alive and growing.

Former mayors and councils acknowledged the city's important role in the area's tourist economy. They knew that their no-nonsense constituents wanted the town to grow in harmony with its historic Western landscape.

The present mayor and council bounced those values out the window for an unnecessary and visually dirty cell tower. Worse, they sold out cheap.

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