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South Whidbey port commissioners vote to restart cell tower negotiations

Commissioners of the Port of South Whidbey voted Tuesday to send a lease draft to AT&T for a cell tower on Possession Point.

The draft effectively restarts negotiations for a cell tower contract that died almost a year ago. Opposition to the cell tower proposal ran high, and Possession Point neighbors and others urged the port to keep the Dorothy Cleveland Trail Park free of the 140-foot structure.

Port commissioners decided it was time to make a move.

“At this point, we feel we’ve exhausted the other options we had,” said Port Commissioner Chris Jerome. “So, we’re going back to Goodman Networks and seeing if we can work out something satisfactory with them.”

Goodman Networks is a company that installs and operates networking infrastructure, such as cell towers.

Port officials tried to sell a 14-acre piece of the public property that included part of the park and the hill where the proposed tower would be built. However, offers were rejected or retracted.

Jerome said the commissioners wanted to sell it to an agency that maintains parks. When that didn’t happen and the property remained on the market for months without “satisfactory” private offers, they chose to proceed with the cell tower lease.

The negotiation process is beginning from scratch, though. The port’s attorney suggested they draft a new lease, rather than rework the long declined one. It may take months before a deal is officially reached by both parties. Even then, it may end up being rejected by either side, and the port will be back where it started.

“I’m sure there’s a possibility that we won’t be able to reach terms with AT&T that we’re satisfied with,” Jerome said.

“I don’t know how remote or otherwise that possibility may be, but it is a possibility,” he said.

Clyde Monma, a property owner adjacent to the park land, said property owners will see the values of their properties drop if the cell tower is built.

Monma said the port would only make $9,000 a year, or a maximum of $34,200 for a three-year lease with AT&T, and said it was "irresponsible and unthinkable for public officials to allow the devastation of the Dorothy Cleveland Trail Park in return for such an insignificant amount of money."

He also said the cell tower would mostly provide service to callers off-island — to communities along the Tulalip-Everett-King County coastline and the Kitsap Peninsula.

 

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