Oroville approves Verizon request, alley vacation

Tire recycling program planned for October

OROVILLE – Two public hearings were held at the Oroville City Council’s Tuesday, Aug. 19 meeting – a request for an alley vacation and a request for a conditional use permit to add a four-foot dish to a Verizon cell tower.

The alley vacation hearing was a continuation from the council’s Aug. 5 meeting and like the previous hearing was closed to public testimony. An opportunity for public testimony was given at a public hearing before the city’s planning commission. Questions from the mayor, council and staff were allowed, however. Those who petitioned the city for the right-of-way vacation in Block 25 are Victor and Heather Rodriguez, Justin and Jessica Helm and Mark Hancock, on behalf of Hancock Revocable Trust. All have property abutting the alley.

At the previous meeting, concerns about access to the alley by the adjacent businesses – Mark Hancock Accounting, VIP Insurance and the old Gazette-Tribune building – were raised.

Chris Branch, director of Community Development, said that even if the alley was vacated, each of the businesses would still retain access to at least one street and a portion of the alley.

“What if the business was to build all the way back to the edge of the property?” asked City Clerk Kathy Jones.

“That couldn’t be done because the properties border a residential property and they would have to maintain a 15 foot setback,” said Branch.

Mayor Chuck Spieth asked Public Works Superintendent Rod Noel if he was satisfied with the easement in regard to utilities that run through the alley.

Noel said he was as long as the ordinance stated the measurements of the right-of-way to be retained by the city.

“It would be 20 feet because it says the city retains an easement through the vacated 20-foot alley,” said Branch. “That’s the entire alley… what the petitioners get out of this is a driveway and it kept as a not a public through way.”

“Basically that’s all it could use it for, they can’t build on it,” added Noel.

The mayor called for a vote on Ordinance 828 and Councilman Tony Koepke made the motion to approve and it was seconded by Neysa Roley. Koepke, Roley and Councilman Jon Neal voted to approve the ordinance. Councilman Ed Naillon abstained because he is related to one of the petitioners and Councilman Walt Hart III voted against.

After the meeting Hart was asked why he voted against and said, “I think it sets a bad precedent for the city. I have several properties where I would benefit from a vacation of city property, but in most cases I think we need to keep what we can within the city’s ownership.”

The next hearing was on whether to approve a conditional use permit (CUP) to change the appearance of an 80-foot cell tower that Verizon had approved in 2009. At that time the company agreed that the tower would be a cylindrical pole with all cellular equipment within it and to not hang any antennas on the outside. However, the cell service provider was back before the council asking to place a four-foot dish at the 45-foot level of the tower. According to their request, the dish would allow Verizon to connect fiber optic in Oroville and then send it to a similar dish on Pickens Mountain located near Ellisforde. This would allow the Verizon to provide 4G Data speeds to that area, where it is not currently available.

The planning commission held an extended hearing on the subject at an earlier date, so this hearing was also closed to public testimony.

“After reading this I could not see where a new antenna really substantially changes the appearance… shape of the tower. When I weigh the benefits I think the antenna still is minimal and serves the greater good,” said Councilman Naillon.

He later added, “And remember as part of our original CUP in 2009 we made them reserve space (inside the tower) for additional carriers.”

“My understanding this is for data,” said Councilman Neal, pointing out that Verizon’s application keeps referring to cellular and not data, which are two different services.

“It will increase the availability of 4G LTE in our area, which is much faster than just 4G,” said Naillon, who then moved to adopt the planning commission’s findings and approve the CUP.

The CUP was approved with all council members voting for it with the exception of Neal who voted against.

Neal said he felt this too would set a bad precedent – a company agreeing to adhere to very specific conditions and then coming back to ask for those conditions to be changed dramatically.

“Once we let them attach one thing to the outside I think we open up the door to them attaching whatever they want… we specified all the equipment had to be internal for a reason,” said Neal. “It doesn’t really benefit the people living in Oroville, who we are supposed to protect. However it probably will benefit the greater community… but they want to do it this way only because it is costing them less money than finding another way.”

PNW Trail

Chris Branch then gave a presentation on the various online trail links for the Pacific Northwest Trail, many with information and photographs of the Similkameen Trail, with its trailhead in Oroville, and the Whistler Canyon Trail, with it’s trailhead just south of town.

“As you can see here on Facebook and on the other trail sites, many people are sharing what they know about our local trails,” said Branch.

He added that several other cities in the county, like Omak and Okanogan, have developed community trails along the river in their towns, as a way of linking them to the Okanogan Trails Scenic Byway.

“I had no idea they had that many sites online,” said Mayor Spieth.

ATVs on City Roads

The council discussed a community report on allowing ATVs on city streets, a request made by the county ATV club.

“Personally, I want to hold off until I see how the lawsuit pending against the county turns out,” said Mayor Spieth.

Councilwoman Roley agreed with the mayor and Naillon said he thought that was a reasonable approach.

“That one suit against roadways with speed limits over 35 miles per hour would eliminate all the connections with Oroville to the hills,” added Jones.

Transfer of Allocated Funds

While Oroville had planned on transferring $106,000 in allocated transportation funds to the Olympia Port Authority, the city got a call about from the state asking if the city would rather transfer the funds to Spokane’s Felts Field for the operation of the control tower there.

Hart made a motion to transfer the funds that the city cannot use at this time to the airport instead and it was seconded by Neal and passed.

“Better they stay here in Eastern Washington than Western Washington,” said Roley.

Steven Johnson, Oroville’s Airport Services Manager agreed, saying there was a greater need, in his opinion, for funding the control tower which had been threatened with defunding by the federal government because of sequestration. The control tower not only helps with air traffic control at the smaller Felts Field, but also for Spokane International.

Dog Pound Contract Cancelled

Oroville Police Chief Clay Warnstaff notified the council that the contractor working with Oroville for animal services has cancelled their contract.

“Nourishing Hands has agreed to take over and provide the same services,” said Warnstaff.

“I think we will have to see some sort of written agreement with them before we can approve them,” said Mayor Spieth.

Tree Board

The council approved a move to increase the number of people on the Tree Board from nine to 11. Two of the members, Branch and Roley, would be “ex-officio” non-voting members, however.

“We have a great group of folks there,” said Branch.

The mayor appointed the new tree board which is made up of Branch, Roley, Lynn and Lee Chapman, Victoria Hinze, Marcy King, Dolly Engelbretson, Mike Cantwell, Joan Cool and Barbara Drummond.

It was also noted that there still had been no reply to the mayor’s letter to Oroville School Superintendent Steve Quick about the district cutting down trees within the city’s right of way.

Grant Denied

Oroville’s application for a grant to do a study to establish income levels on both sides of the lake in order to determine a rate structure for city services was denied, according to Branch.

“West lake is going to take about $7 million just to get up to our (the city’s) standards, while the east side has already developed to our standards,” said Branch, who added that the city would have to do some sort of study eventually as it continues to serve people living outside the city limits.

Old Tire Collection

A one-time state Department of Ecology recycling program will take place in late October. Ecology has asked the city for space to park one or more 28 foot trailers so that used tires can be collected from the public, including used agricultural tires, according to Clerk Jones. This would not include tires from commercial businesses, however. The collection would take place over a two to three day period, said Jones.

“There would also be what they call ‘milk runs’ to pick up from areas that have 100 or more tires. They will also have sites in Tonasket and Omak and there will be additional information given out in a fair booth at the county fair,” said Jones. “The staff felt it would be really good for our area, not just inside town, but also the surrounding area.”

A tentative date for collection of Monday, Oct. 28 and Tuesday, Oct. 29 was approved by the council.

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He is single with a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.

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