Juneau Assembly OKs cell tower moratorium

The Juneau Assembly on Monday adopted a moratorium on new wireless communications towers until adopting a cell tower master plan. (Photo by Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO)

The Juneau Assembly on Monday adopted a moratorium on new wireless communications towers until adopting a cell tower master plan. (Photo by Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO)

The Juneau Assembly last night adopted a moratorium on new cell phone towers and accepted a pair of highly charged appeals.

The moratorium blocks permitting of new wireless communications towers until May 19. Between now and then the assembly hopes to adopt a master plan regulating where and how cell towers are built.

Two people testified in favor of the measure, while nobody spoke against it.

“The view shed is threatened for many of the people in town,” said Fritz Cove resident Jon Lyman, who lives near a tower on Spuhn Island with a constantly flashing air traffic warning light on top of it.

Lyman urged the assembly to get as much public input as possible on the cell tower master plan.

“What we should have is an opportunity, real opportunities, for the public to participate both in the structuring of the final ordinance, and during the siting of different towers,” he said.

North Douglas resident SueAnn Randall lives across the cove from Lyman, where her house also faces Spuhn Island. She urged the assembly to watch three videos she posted to YouTube of the tower’s flashing strobe light.

“Just so you can see what it’s like every second of the day,” Randall said.

(One of three YouTube videos of the Spuhn Island cell phone tower posted by SueAnn Randall)

The assembly voted 5-3 to adopt the moratorium. Assemblymen Jerry Nankervis and Randy Wanamaker, as well as Mayor Merrill Sanford, voted against it.

Nankervis said people want better cell phone service, and with that comes cell towers.

“These aren’t put in arbitrarily,” Nankervis said. “They’re market-driven, they’re studied where they’re going to go in. There’s a limited amount of space where they can go in, and it’s unfortunate that we see them. And you do see them around the rest of the country, and they have cell phone coverage that works everywhere.”

The moratorium only applies to new cell phone towers. It does not apply to towers needed for public health or safety.

Dangerous dog, “field of fireweed” appeals accepted

The assembly on Monday accepted two emotional appeals:

  • Jody and Joyce Vick are fighting a dangerous animal designation for their pit bull-mastiff mix, Sushi. Juneau Animal Control deemed the dog dangerous after he fatally attacked another dog last Thanksgiving. The Vicks claim the label will force them to put Sushi down. Animal Control says they could save Sushi with a homeowner’s liability insurance policy. The assembly voted to hear the Vicks’ appeal itself. Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl will serve as presiding officer.
  • The assembly also voted to accept an appeal from Juneau home builder Bicknell Inc. The company wants to overturn a planning commission decision denying a rezone request for its 82-acre property near the airport. Bicknell wants to use the property for industrial and commercial purposes, but current zoning limits development. Wildlife enthusiasts, who want the property to stay the way it is, have taken to calling it the “field of fireweed.” The assembly voted to have a hearing officer decide the case.