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Verizon to move into Vinland neighborhood

POULSBO — After losing a hard-fought battle to prevent a cell tower from being built in their area, the fears of residents near Vinland Elementary School have been confirmed, and a dreaded 120-foot cell tower will soon join their neighborhood.

Now awaiting the final permit approval, Verizon Wireless plans to construct a cell tower on a 3,000 square foot piece of property just north of the elementary school on the east side of Rhododendron Lane to improve calling signals and meet projected increases in wireless demand in the area. The tower is expected to be finished within a year, said Verizon Wireless media representative Georgia Taylor.

While residents hope the corporation decides to build as inconspicuous a device as possible, they aren’t counting on it.

“They can still choose to be a good neighbor,” Vinland neighborhood advocate Amy Hoffman said.

She and 19 other area residents appealed the Poulsbo City Council’s 4-3 October 2006 decision to overturn a Hearing Examiner warning and allow Verizon to build. In May of this year, the final Kitsap Superior Court judgement allowed the tower’s construction, and the group did not appeal within their alloted 30 days, meaning there is no further legal avenue for them, said attorney David Horton, who represented the locals.

The residents cited fears of declining property values and an inability to sell their homes as reasons to prevent the tower.

Hoffman said while there are no legal actions available for the neighbors to take, she’d like the communication company to construct a less intrusive tower than the 120-foot “really ugly” one currently planned.

Hoffman said the group felt “deeply disappointed” with city council after their decision to allow construction.

“It was shocking, plum shocking,” she said of the motion.

Hoffman said while she understands cell service is necessary, Verizon coming into the neighborhood is something akin to a bull in a china shop. Despite attempts to cooperate, she said Verizon showed “pretty much zero compromise.”

“We were totally willing to work with them,” she said. “Nobody wants a cell tower in their neighborhood.”

Taylor said Verizon Wireless did compromise on its plan for the structure, changing the mono-pole design to a lower profile, less obtrusive application. The company tries to work with communities in the areas where it builds as much as possible, but it also must meet the expectations of cell coverage, she said.

“We understand people’s concerns, we take people’s concerns to heart,” she said. “We really want to hear from people ... and always take that into account.”

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