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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of June 19 - 25, 2002


Local officials slam cell tower hearing

Express Staff Writer

Described by a Hailey City Council member as a "sham," a public meeting conducted Friday by the Idaho Department of Lands on a proposed cell tower did little to assuage local concerns.

The department is proposing to lease state land on Della Mountain, next to an existing 60-foot tower, to Hailey-based Idaho Tower Co. to build a tower "up to" 100 feet tall and capable of supporting 10 carriers.

About 40 people showed up at an "open-house" meeting the department held at the Hailey Library at 6:30 p.m. Friday to present the proposal and take public comment. However, local public officials who attended expressed skepticism about the departmentís sincerity in consulting local opinion.

"I think it was a little baffling as to what the real purpose of this meeting was," said County Commissioner May Ann Mix.

Hailey City Council President Susan McBryant went further.

"I think it was intended as a sham to massage Blaine County," she said. "It was not a meeting. It was a social hour intended to give both the Land Board and the party proposing (the tower) the time to promote it."

At the meeting, Mix criticized the lack of an architectural drawing for the proposed tower and of plans to camouflage it and to mitigate construction damage to the site, all items required under Blaine Countyís recently enacted Wireless Communications Facility Ordinance.

In a letter delivered to the department, county Planning and Zoning Administrator Linda Haavik contended that the departmentís decision to hold the meeting on a Friday night "does not comport with the notion that the public should be part of the decision-making process."

County feelings are still smarting from an effort by the Lands Department to ignore county zoning ordinances by allowing gravel mining on state land in Ohio Gulch. Since the county ordinance appears to prohibit the new tower as proposed, a second such battle looked imminent.

However, a decision handed down last Wednesday by 5th District Judge James May in favor of the county in the Ohio Gulch case suddenly weakened the stateís position.

In response to assertions by local officials that the decision means Idaho Tower Co. will need to apply for a conditional-use permit from the county, Bryce Taylor, the departmentís representative at the meeting, said, "Thereís more than one court in this state." Though the reply implied the state plans to appeal Mayís decision, a spokesperson for the Idaho Attorney Generalís Office said in an interview that the question is still under review.

Taylor could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

In an interview, Jennifer Campbell, co-owner of Idaho Tower Co., said the company "definitely" plans to go before the county to obtain a conditional-use permit. She said there was no point in doing so before the company obtained a lease agreement with the state.

"I feel bad that people think things were happening out of turn, but I donít believe they were," she said.

Campbell said the company will probably propose a tower 60 feet high to comply with the countyís ordinance, which requires towers to be no taller than any existing tower at the site.

Campbell said a taller tower would provide better coverage and sound quality for local cell phone users.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.