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Group fighting North Bend cell antenna Tower foes plan picnic protest

Tom and Peggy Bindus and Rob Salopek are among North Bend neighbors who plan to protest the construction of a 150-foot cell tower near their Circle River Ranch homes. They plan to gather with friends and family and be visible when T-Mobile holds its company picnic in North Bend this week. - Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Tom and Peggy Bindus and Rob Salopek are among North Bend neighbors who plan to protest the construction of a 150-foot cell tower near their Circle River Ranch homes. They plan to gather with friends and family and be visible when T-Mobile holds its company picnic in North Bend this week.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

A group of North Bend residents plan to protest a new T-Mobile cell tower in their neighborhood at the moment it’ll make the most impact.

They’re timing it for the T-Mobile company picnic.

The group, more than a dozen strong, recently lost their appeal of construction of the 150-foot tower, at the 42100 block of 102nd Street in North Bend, with the King County Hearing Examiner.

They said the tower ruins their views of Mount Si, and have appealed the examiner’s approval. They’ve asked to move it 50 feet southeast.

To make their views felt, neighbors plan to rally when T-Mobile holds its company picnic Friday, July 11 at the Mountain Meadows Farm, located just down the street.

“We just feel we have to do something,” said North Bend resident and cell tower opponent Rob Salopek. “It’s the only opportunity that we have to do something to at least show people that we’re upset.”

The group will gather at noon Friday at Salopek’s residence, 10121 420th Ave. S.E.

Salopek finds it ironic that the company will hold their picnic in the same scenery that, neighbors argue, they are spoiling for others.

“They get to have their picnic in our backyard, but they won’t move the tower a few feet to get out of our neighborhood.”

Planned for construction on the property of North Bend resident Jerome Klacsan, the tower’s height allows T-Mobile to have other cell phone providers place their antennas at the 125 and 110-foot levels.

T-Mobile Spokesman Rod De La Rosa said that the company followed local and state laws in seeking to build the tower.

“T-Mobile is engaged with the homeowners through the permitting process and will continue to handle communication through that proper channel,” he said.

Si view

Residents of the Circle River Ranch neighborhood organized last year to fight the tower, gathering a petition with 90 signatures.

To them, the tower fight isn’t about property values, but about the reasons they moved to North Bend: the beauty of Mount Si.

“We’ve obviously designed and built our homes to capture that view,” said Peggy Bindus. “None of us is planning to move. We’re talking about our day-to-day enjoyment of our home.”

Neighbors said they wanted to compromise with the company.

“We were just saying ‘Work with us here. Make it lower, make it use stealth technology.”

The county is requiring that the tower be painted dark green to blend in with the treeline.

Tom Bindus said that the color of Mount Si is something that’s ever-changing. To him, the green-painted pole won’t match the grey misty mornings, the winter blues, or when the sun turns the ridge red or gold.

Examiner’s decision

Last February, the county issued a conditional use permit for the tower, deeming that it did not pose significant impacts on the environment. That month, a group of neighbors filed an appeal of the use permit. A public hearing was held June 4, and King County Hearing Examiner Stafford Smith issued his denial of the appeal on June 10. Stafford cited a balloon study performed by T-Mobile, in which a red balloon was tethered to a 150-foot line and floated on the site. Photos taken by the company from the neighborhood show the balloon just above the treeline. In his decision, Smith expressed doubt as to whether some of the appealing neighbors would be able to see the tower at all from their homes.

On June 10, neighbors filed a motion for reconsideration, asking that the tower be moved 50 feet to the southeast. Such a move, they stated, would be a major improvement to the tower’s impact on their views.

Smith has asked that the tower company submit a plan to move the tower by July 9, or reopen the public hearing.

In the end, neighbors aren’t sure exactly what the 50 extra feet might achieve.

“But it’s all we’re going to get, as it sits right now,” Salopek said.

“We have not won in the courts,” he said. “We have done everything we can do. The protest is something that’s important to us.”

“This is our sanctuary,” Peggy Bindus said. “We just feel like we have a little bit of heaven out here.”

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