Residents battle AT&T over backyard tower

by: Gary Horcher Updated:

Concerned Maple Valley residents attended a community meeting about the proposed tower Tuesday night.
Maple Valley, Wash. —

Concerned neighbors packed a community meeting Tuesday night to voice their objections to AT&T representatives, who are planning to build a 12-story-high cell tower in the backyard of a property owner.

AT&T rep Ken Lyons told the group their customer demand for cellular bandwidth has risen 50,000 percent in the last six years.

“That requires that we look into our network and figure out where we need to invest in the network to make improvement and keep up with demand," he said.

Lyons said the solution would be the 120-foot tall steel cell tower, which would be built on property owned by Norma Burnard--who will be paid at least $1,200 per month.

The tower would go at the end of Burnard’s backyard on Southeast 174th Street, near Maple Valley.

Burnard told KIRO 7, the money would help her pay property taxes for the land she’s owned for 40 years.

“When you get to be a senior you can't really go out and get a job," Burnard said.

But her neighbors say that sellout would dramatically drop their property values.

“We do not want and we do not need that tower in our neighborhood," said one neighbor.

“A potential home buyer's going look out my back deck and see that pole going through my trees and he's not going buy my house," exclaimed another.

Concerned mother Chrissy Brockway worried the tower could also cause adverse health effects, although the FCC has stated the risk to neighbors would be extremely low.

“We don't want to see 70 feet of tower above our tree lines,” she said. “They say it’s safe, but how do I really know?”

A neighbor familiar with cell tower technology told the crowd, “You will get more radiation from this phone to your head than you will from the tower that they're suggesting."

AT&T spokesperson Marianne Bichsel told KIRO 7 the process of hearing from the community is only beginning.

We most definitely want to hear what the neighbors have to say,” Bichsel said in a release. “We also need to locate towers in a place that will improve cell phone coverage and data speed.”

“Any alternative site must provide adequate coverage to our customers. That’s why this whole process is happening, because there is a coverage need. So any site must meet that need.”

One neighbor vowed to continue to push for alternative sites.

“We want you to pick a different site that has less impact, and it sounds like to us, you haven't looked at any other sites,” he said. “So we're going to fight!"

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