Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 4:47 PM on Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Anchorage area residents fight cell towers in their neighborhoods

The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE — A battle is under way in Alaska over new wireless communications towers being put up by Verizon Wireless as it moves into the state and as other cellphone companies upgrade their networks.

Verizon is set to begin Alaska service in 2013. The increase in cell towers is leading to conflicts with residents in some areas who don't want the towers near their homes, the Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday.

Residents in east Anchorage are opposed to building a 100-foot tower in that part of the city. The city Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday rejected the tower site after deciding it didn't fit in with the College Village neighborhood.

Jeanne Ostness, who lives in College Village, said the tower would have been next to her backyard.

"If I was to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee, it'd be right there," she said. "Most of the neighbors — they don't want to look at it."

Residents in the Turnagain area of Anchorage and in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough also are fighting towers near their neighborhoods. The borough no longer requires permits to build towers, so residents may not even hear about plans to build the towers. Murph O'Brien learned that a communication tower was being constructed when he was out looking for his lost beagle in a neighborhood near Palmer and came across a pile of steel.

"What irks me is the lack of public process," O'Brien said.

Doug Lampton lives right next door to the rising tower. "I was very angry because I wasn't told it was being put there," he said. "I don't understand why the borough let them build right in a residential area."

The Mat-Su Borough Assembly repealed the borough's tower regulations last November and failed to adopt new ones that had been proposed. As a result, companies don't have to notify nearby residents or go through any type of hearing when building a tower. In Anchorage, whether new towers undergo a city review and opportunity for residents to comment depends on the location's zoning.

Jillanne Inglis, an acting supervisor in the city's Community Development Department, said her department has had 11 requests during the past year for towers in zones that call for city reviews. Three each were from Verizon and AT&T. She said information on the total number of new tower requests in Anchorage over the past year isn't readily available.

A Verizon spokesman, Scott Charlston, said he couldn't say how many towers Verizon is building in Anchorage or Alaska because the company is in the middle of leasing real estate.