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Half Mast

Half of wireless project approved, but it may not matter

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While a neighborhood group fighting the installation of two wireless towers is planning to appeal the approval of half of the project, it may be a moot point.

Not only has the business that was supposed to house the tower backed out, but the tower owner is reportedly making new plans.

Clearwire Inc. was given a conditional use permit on May 5 by the Boise Planning and Zoning Commission to erect a 75-foot antenna complex on top of Tates Rents on Broadway Avenue.

The commission unanimously rejected a similar application for a Schucks Auto Parts site further east, stating that the pole was "too tall, too close to the street and not compatible with other uses in the neighborhood," according to Barbara Robinson, one of the leaders in the growing movement to block the masts (BW, News, "Towering Hazard," April 23, 2008).

But in response to health concerns from neighbors, Tates Rents is reconsidering allowing the tower on its building.

"Tates Rents is not comfortable executing a contract to lease a portion of the Tates Rents site for a communications tower on the property," states an e-mail forwarded by Robinson.

Tates CEO Carl Arriola did not respond to BW requests for comment.

Now, it appears Clearwire is planning to put the antenna on an Idaho Power pole.

For its part, Planning and Zoning rejected evidence of adverse health effects as beyond its jurisdiction.

"This is totally absurd," said Henry Wiebe, one of the seven people who testified against the towers. "Those masts are already lowering real estate values. People take a look at those things and it certainly has an impact on their desire to buy [property in the area]."

It's part of a total erosion of the Broadway Avenue neighborhood, Wiebe said.

"The bottom line is that the city and county don't like blight, but that's what they're promoting," Wiebe said. "It's the continued momentum of commerce against residents."

At the meeting, Clearwire representatives told the committee that the company has no long-range plans for the Treasure Valley. Three days later, it announced a $14.55-billion merger with Sprint Nextel's wireless broadband unit.

Robinson says her group will apply for a reconsideration of the decision and is considering asking the Boise City Council for a full hearing on the matter.

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