After an eight-month delay, AT&T has finally responded to the Port of South Whidbey proposal to allow a cell tower to be built in the Dorothy Cleveland Trail Park.
The original lease allows AT&T to secure the rights to the land for up to 25 years without having to pay any monthly fees at all until construction actually begins. Given the need for Island County and Washington state permits and their track record in these matters, construction is unlikely to begin within the next five years or so.
Once construction does begin, the Port would receive only $1,100 a month in lease payments. This is dwarfed by our offer to preserve this beautiful park for future generations by purchasing the land for $150,000. This offer was rejected by the Port earlier this year.
AT&T has further skewed the conditions of the lease by striking several key clauses in a way that is harmful to the residents of South Whidbey. For example, AT&T modified a clause so that POSW employees must support their efforts to secure permits and provide access to the land without any compensation by AT&T. This could result in significant costs to taxpayers without any guarantee of any future revenues. In fact, the only economic reason AT&T wants to build a cell tower on Possession Ridge is to serve lucrative off-island residents in Snohomish and King counties. The benefit to residents of South Whidbey is marginal.
Environmental damage would result since the proposed site is in an area Island County classifies as geologically sensitive, hazardous steep slope.
It also violates the required 50-foot setback from the crest of Possession Ridge. Significant impact is likely for wildlife, especially birds, since this upland forest is home to a wide variety of local birds, is an adjacent bald eagle habitat and is a stopping-off point for many migratory bird species.
The tower requires clearing a swath of forested land 500 feet long by 20 feet wide to build a gravel access road and adjacent ditch — destroying more than three dozen trees, some very old, along the natural path currently used by hikers to access the trail from the west. This will create a water run-off hazard and disturb underground springs, streams and watershed.
We must not allow a multinational corporation like AT&T to damage our environment by developing public parks and by constructing a tower 558 feet above Cultus Bay and Possession Beach. This tower would be a major eyesore for residents of Sandy Hook, Possession Shores, Scatchet Head and Possession Ridge.
FAA rules require flashing red lights and bird avoidance sound systems to be installed, creating unacceptable light and noise pollution, especially for small pocket communities located just 165 feet from the proposed tower.
We urge you to help Save Open/Green Spaces on South Whidbey (SOS-SW) by signing our petition at sos-sw.monma.com and by calling the POSW offices at 360-331-5494.
Clyde and Marcia Monma