Cellular network may start in Langley

A proposal to erect a 150-foot cellular telephone pole on public property near Langley revealed this week a telecommunications company's intention to build a network of cellular facilities on Whidbey Island.

A spokeswoman with VoiceStream Wireless said this week that her company plans to build about 15 cellular antennas between Clinton and Coupeville, starting with 150-foot monopole towers on Langley city property and near Ken's Korner.

Laura Altschul said VoiceStream canceled a planned public meeting in Langley this week after being told to do so by city administration. Interested in putting up a tower next to the city's water storage reservoirs on Al Anderson Avenue, the company has not yet applied for a permit to do so. Langley Mayor Lloyd Furman said he and the city's planner, Jack Lynch, encouraged VoiceStream to call off the meeting scheduled for Wednesday night because the company, the city and Island County have a number of issues to resolve before the communications pole can even be a possibility.

Furman said the city and VoiceStream have talked about locating the pole on city property.

"There's been conversations," he said.

But before it can go up, the city and the county need to come to some agreement on zoning regulations on Al Anderson Avenue, since that area is jointly administered by the two governments. The proposed structure is taller than city regulations allow; but it is of a size that is acceptable under county rules.

At a planning advisory board meeting Wednesday night, Lynch said the structure's future is up to the city almost solely. Because the proposed tower site is in the city's urban growth area and is likely to be within the city limits in a few years, the county's planning department is staying out of the decision.

"They're going to do nothing," Lynch said.

Like other landowners who allow cellular companies to locate antennas on their land, the city stands to earn a lease fee from VoiceStream. Altschul said this lease payment is just a small part of the public benefit that will come from a new cellular network. She said the towers and other antennas VoiceStream plans to build are intended to give its telephone customers reliable service in major population areas and on Highway 525.

"It's what we consider the next phase of our expansion in Western Washington," she said.

The multimillion dollar project on South and Central Whidbey will give VoiceStream customers telephone service from Clinton to Oak Harbor, where the company has already built several antennas.

Altschul said the system is directed as much toward visitors to the island as Whidbey residents. She said the company plans to hold public meetings and hearings on the Langley antenna project in the future.

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