County council upholds denial of radio towers

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By Meg Olson

On January 27 The Cross Border Coalition to Stop the Towers was celebrating its latest victory in their battle to stop a tower farm being built in Point Roberts, but already planning for the next round.

At its regular meeting Whatcom County Council voted unanimously to uphold the county hearing examiner’s decision to deny BBC Broadcasting’s conditional use permit to build an array of five 150′ radio towers at the corner of Tyee Drive and McKenzie Way.

Hearing examiner Michael Bobbink ruled against the application because he said there was “no specific mechanism for allowing broadcastP1010007 towers or other utility structures to exceed zoning height limitations” in the county code, and the towers would exceed to height limitations for Point Roberts. Such a mechanism specific to cellular communications towers already exists.

County council was briefed by their legal team in closed session prior to the vote and took no testimony from the packed council chambers, filled with a mix of coalition members and their supporters, Point Roberts and Delta residents and members of the Indo-Canadian community that is served by BBC Broadcasting’s KRPI, currently broadcasting out of Ferndale.

“It was a very strict council review of the laws and the rules and whether the hearing examiner went through that process correctly,” said council chair Carl Weimer, and council voted unanimously that he had. “That’s kind of it for that issue,” Weimer said.

The vote marked the applicant’s last avenue of appeal at the county level, but coalition members aren’t resting on their laurels. “The best guess is they will file an appeal under the Land Use Petition Act [in superior court],” said coalition member Arthur Reber.

The county has 30 days to prepare a statement following the council decision; following which, BBC Broadcasting then has 21 days to file P1060758an appeal, Reber said. While the county is responsible for defending the decision, Reber said it is important for coalition lawyers to be there. “We’re going to have to make a strong defense,” he said, adding the coalition expects that to cost another $25,000.

Reber added the coalition was still challenging the radio station’s license renewal at a federal level. “The other side has deep pockets. We barely have pockets,” he wrote on an online blog. The coalition plans an art auction for April and continues to solicit donations through their website, http://notowers.webs.com/.

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