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January 19, 1998

Local News

News from the King County Council

  by Louise Miller, County Council Chair
   A recent letter to the editor was published in the Woodinville Weekly accusing the county of serving its own interests and ignoring the public with regard to the proposed Ring Hill emergency communications tower. There was some confusing and inaccurate information in this letter that I would like to correct.
   In this instance, county's service mission is very specific: The county's big-picture interest is to establish a network of radio towers to provide dependable radio service for critical public safety agencies such as police, fire and EMS. It is true that the county will be leasing space on the tower to commercial wireless providers. However, these providers would be seeking tower sites anyway, and by accommodating them on a facility that the county must build, we can help reduce the pressure to build other cell towers in the area.
   Second, the Ring Hill site was not chosen simply because it is already in county ownership. Much more important factors include the fact that the site is large enough that the radio tower will be 550 feet from the nearest property line and 700 feet from the nearest home. All the alternative sites placed the radio tower much closer to residential dwellings.
   In addition, this 75 acre site allows us to use a guyed tower design which has a much lower visual impact than a self-supporting tower design. The tower face on a guyed tower is about 3 feet, while a self-supporting tower can reach as much as 30 feet across. The existing condition of the site was also critical since the tower will be located on a closed landfill, it is highly unlikely that the surrounding property will be developed for many years.
   Finally, the trees surrounding the tower shield all but the top of the tower from local view. Height is critical for this radio application, the quality of performance of public safety radio networks are directly related to the height of the antennas above the average terrain of the area.
   The letter expressed anger that the Hearing Examiner supported the county's Department of Development and Environmental Services' decision to permit the tower and seems to imply that this was inevitable since they are part of the same government structure.
   It is important to note that the Department of Development and Environmental Services and the Hearing Examiner are two separate organizations that do not report to the same authority and, in fact, are not even in the same branch of county government. DDES is an executive department and reports directly to County Executive Ron Sims. The County Hearing Examiner is appointed by the County Council. If one reviews county records, it is easy to see that the Hearing Examiner has overturned DDES decisions on several occasions.
   If you would like more information on this facility, please feel free to contact me at the King County Courthouse at (206) 296-1003, or on Wednesdays in my Kingsgate office at (206) 296-0397.