I just heard that WSDOT didn't kick T-Mobile out of the WSDOT ROW. Is this true?
Records and information from WSDOT support your conclusion that WSDOT did not kick T-Mobile out of the WSDOT ROW. Beginning in 2004, T-Mobile had a permanent cell site on a utility pole in the WSDOT SR-520 right-of-way; its utility pole was adjacent to and slightly north of SR-520, shrouded by trees. Because of the SR-520 construction, its cell site was relocated, around March 2011, onto a different utility pole in the WSDOT ROW. (Its 2011 pole was in the WSDOT SR-520 right-of-way located in the Evergreen Point Road Park & Ride, adjacent to and slightly south of the SR-520, and it was also shrouded by trees.)
Contrary to rumors that WSDOT was "out of the leasing business", WSDOT was in fact committed to finding new locations for cell sites that would be impacted by the SR-520 project, and that's why in February 2011 WSDOT leased the 2011 utility-pole site to T-Mobile. (The 2011 lease between WSDOT and T-Mobile states in relevant part, "During the construction of the [SR-520] Project, it is WSDOT's intent to accommodate wireless providers that are currently located on WSDOT property and will be affected by the SR-520 Project.") In April 2011, the City granted T-Mobile a permit for the 2011 utility-pole site. We can therefore assume that T-Mobile operated on its 2011 utility-pole site in the WSDOT ROW from April 2011 until around October or November 2013, when the COW (cell-on-wheels) first appeared on the playfield at Fairweather Park.
Did WSDOT kick T-Mobile off of the 2011 utility-pole site and onto the COW at Fairweather Park? Our research says no. From 2011 through April 2015, the lease between WSDOT and T-Mobile for the 2011 utility-pole site was still in effect, and in fact T-Mobile continued to pay rent to WSDOT through April 2015. Based on records we received from WSDOT, it's clear that, up until April 2015, WSDOT assumed T-Mobile was still operating the 2011 utility-pole site; in April 2015, WSDOT was on a site visit to the 2011 utility-pole site and discovered that T-Mobile had -- without notice to WSDOT -- vacated the 2011 utility-pole site.
Wasn't the Temporary Site in Fairweather Park Supposed To Be Temporary?
Yes. The 45-foot COW (cell-on-wheels) cell site on the grassy playfield at Fairweather Park, which suddenly appeared in September or October 2013, was explained to concerned residents as being necessary because of the SR-520 construction project -- that WSDOT was "out of the leasing business" until after the SR-520 construction was complete. (Our research now shows that WSDOT was never "out of the leasing business" -- see question above.) Medina residents understood at the time that once the SR-520 Eastside construction was complete, T-Mobile would return to a permanent location outside the park (on utility poles, in the SR 520 highway right-of-way, on commercial buildings, etc.).
However, instead of waiting for the completion of the SR-520 Eastside construction and then securing a permanent utility-pole cell site in a location zoned for wireless in the vicinity, T-Mobile and its tower-company partner, Independent Towers (which according to public records was sold in July or August 2014 to the largest privately-held tower company in the USA, billionaire Vertical Bridge), applied in 2014 for a special use permit for a permanent industrial cell tower complex in the park. T-Mobile and Independent Towers/Vertical Bridge asked for a huge industrial cell-tower complex, including a massive 80-foot tower and a 1525-square-foot (25 feet wide by 61 feet long) cement equipment building, in the middle of the grassy playfield at Fairweather Park. Understandably, Medina residents were alarmed, and rallied together to protect the community and the parks.
What Happened during the City's Hearing on T-Mobile's Permit?
Over 50 Medina residents participated in the permit review process, and none of the residents (other than Mayor Patrick Boyd) testified in favor of the 80-foot cell-tower project. With a wireless industry pioneer at their side, Medina residents explained that T-Mobile had better options, outside the Park, and that the giant industrial cell-tower facility was clearly not designed to be the least impactful option on our neighborhood or our families, visitors, homes, parks, natural habitats, wildlife or community. (And, the park is not zoned for wireless -- only the unforested portion of the nature preserve is zoned for wireless.)
The City's Hearing Examiner, after an exhaustive review, denied T-Mobile’s permit for failing to meet the Code standards. What did T-Mobile and its Big Wireless cell-tower partner do next? Instead of then thinking smarter and working with the City and Medina Residents on pro-park, pro-technology sites and solutions, T-Mobile and its Big Wireless cell-tower partner retaliated by suing in federal court.
Didn't T-Mobile Admit It Failed To Consider ANY Viable Options Outside Medina's Parks?
Under questioning, T-Mobile and its cell-tower partner admitted that they chose the grassy playfied in the middle of our neighborhood park as their first and only choice for a permanent location, failing to explore any viable options on the Eastside outside Medina's parks. Importantly, it was not disclosed to the concerned residents or the Hearing Examiner that, at the time of the hearing and through April 2015, T-Mobile had an easy and viable option outside the park -- it had a lease with WSDOT and could have stayed on a utility pole in the WSDOT ROW, in accordance with its still-in-effect lease with WSDOT.
Aren't There Smarter, More Respectful Eastside Options Outside Our Parks?
Yes, there are many viable Eastside options for T-Mobile and Big Wireless outside our neighborhood parks, including utility poles, the SR 520 highway right-of-way, and commercial buildings. Common sense, and the law, require that T-Mobile choose the least-intrusive location, the least-intrusive technology and the least-intrusive equipment. T-Mobile, it's not too late to do the right thing!
Have a Question?
We would love to hear from you.
YOUR GIFT IS TAX-DEDUCTIBLE. RESPECTMedina is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Your contribution to RESPECTMedina is fully tax-deductible.
Our Tax ID number is 47-1196373. We are registered with benevity and Microsoft's Matching Gifts Program - you can maximize the impact of your gift!
You can obtain additional financial disclosure information from the Secretary of State's Charities Program at 1-800-332-4483 or www.sos.wa.gov/charities.