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S'side couple appeals SVID's plan to erect tower

A decision is expected in the next 10 business days on an appeal opposing a 120-foot radio tower proposed by the Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District.

Presiding over his first meeting as Sunnyside's hearing examiner, Yakima attorney Gary Cuillier last night heard from SVID, the city and received a letter of opposition by Gary and Cheryl Pira, who live near the site of the proposed tower.

The appeal followed a Jan. 18 decision by the city's staff review committee to allow the tower, which would be built on SVID's property at 120 S. 11th Street.

In their appeal letter, the Piras contend that the committee made a decision on the tower before receiving all pertinent documents, including a scale drawing of what the tower would look like in proportion to other buildings, as well as a reply from the FAA whether or not lighting would be required.

City Planner Jamey Ayling said last night that all requested documents were on file before the committee made its decision. During the hearing, Ayling and City Attorney Mark Kunkler both supported the original staff review committee finding.

As to other concerns expressed by the Piras, SVID attorney Michael Shinn contended that the "burden of proof" about the appeal should rest with the Piras, since they are the "proponents" in the case.

Shinn also stated there is no evidence that property values will be lowered because of the tower. "There was no evidence submitted by the appellants, (the Piras) or by anyone else, that the SVID tower project would impact property values," Shinn wrote in a legal brief submitted to the city.

As to the neighborhood aesthetics issue raised by the Piras, Shinn said the tower will be painted a color to match the nearby SVID building from the ground level up to 30 feet. In addition, the tower site will be screened by fencing or evergreen vegetation.

Since the FAA will not require the tower to be lighted, Shinn said lights will not be a distraction in the neighborhood. He noted that due to the high radio frequency of the tower it will not interfere with other radio signals in the area.

In their appeal letter the Piras, who were out of town on a trip that had been planned well in advance, also questioned the stability of the proposed tower. They say that's due to an engineer's findings that the soil underneath the proposed tower site is "poorly graded sand with gravel that is moist and loose."

They also claim that SVID's own findings show that groundwater was encountered just 10 feet below the tower site.

In response to those concerns, agricultural engineer Dick Haapala of CH2M Hill provided testimony about the stability of the proposed tower.

Haapala said the site would be prepared by excavating the loose soils and providing a minimum of six feet of densely compacted soil below the base of the concrete foundation supporting the tower.

As to the foundation, Haapala said it will be 23 feet by 23 feet in dimension and at least four feet thick.

By having such a wide base, Haapala said the foundation will distribute evenly the weight of the tower, which is intended to withstand winds of 100 miles per hour and gusts up to 120 miles per hour.

In response to a question by Cuillier, Haapala said the excavation work could be conducted even during a time of year when the water table is high.

After hearing the testimony, Cuillier said he will render a decision on the matter to the city of Sunnyside within 10 business days.

If desired, either the Piras or SVID could appeal the hearing examiner's decision to the city council.

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