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NK-RECAP files suit over tower project

INDIANOLA — A group of residents who have been claiming for nearly two years that the county and tribe are illegally developing a telecommunications tower near their homes have decided to put one of the responsible parties involved to task — through court.

The North Kitsap Reasonable Environmental Controls for All People (NK-RECAP) and Indianola resident/NK-RECAP member Fritz Greenlee filed a land-use petition against Kitsap County and Kitsap County Central Communications (CenCom) in Kitsap County Superior Court July 21.

Greenlee and NK-RECAP want the court to review and vacate CenCom’s filing of a State Environmental Policy Act Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance and direct CenCom to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement on the property. The MDNS states that CenCom has determined that the project will not have a “probable significant adverse impact on the environment.”

NK-RECAP and Greenlee are neighboring residents of the property, which is on Port Madison Indian Reservation land, where the tower has been proposed to be constructed. They are concerned about the tower’s impacts to the environment as well as the way the project been approved, Greenlee said.

The petition’s claims include:

• The project will harm several species of endangered and/or protected birds and other wildlife and the group feels the MDNS requirements will not adequately mitigate those impacts

• There are better locations around the county, such as land behind the North Kitsap Fire & Rescue fire station on South Kingston Road for the tower

• The project will have a negative impact on the mental, physical, and economic well-being of the residents nearby

• That CenCom denies any sensitive environmental areas in the vicinity, when there are wetlands, beaver ponds and an estuary nearby

• That the tower’s lighting, as required by FAA, will be a source of nighttime disturbance for residents

• That residents will be effected by the physical, structural and radio frequency emissions from the tower

• That CenCom has failed to consider whether the project follows the Kitsap County Comprehensive Plan and has failed to perform a visual impact study as required by county code

The hearing is to be held at 9 a.m. Aug. 27 at the county courthouse in Port Orchard.

The telecommunications tower is being developed by the Suquamish Tribe and CenCom. The tribe plans to use the tower to expand its education resources with wireless technology. CenCom wants to use the tower to help expand its emergency communications coverage.

Greenlee said he and his neighbors are not complaining about the project but are trying to show how the county is going around its own wireless communication facilities standards and regulations to construct a 320-foot tower that will be seen for miles around while impacting residents living nearby.

“It’s going to be seen all over the place and the people who live there right immediately are going to be right under the tower, 24 hours a day, 365 day a year,” Greenlee said.

Another problem neighbors have with the project is the fact that they were not approached by the county or tribe about it and say they are still being ignored, Greenlee said.

“The end result — I would like the county to comply with the laws,” Greenlee said. “That’s all we wanted. The county, and if the tribe is going to be a partner, they (should) comply with the laws.”

CenCom director Ron McAffee said he could not comment on the lawsuit because it is in mitigation.

However, he did explain how CenCom has worked to make sure the project won’t effect the environment.

When CenCom applied for a tower registration license with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), it claimed in its application that there would be no significant environmental impact based on CenCom’s studies. Generally, that is accepted by the FCC, McAffee said, but the agency received letters of concern from neighbors, prompting it to ask for more detailed research from CenCom.

The county then submitted environmental, biological and cultural assessments that the tribe had completed on the property. It also went through a SEPA review, resulting in the MDNS, McAffee said.

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