Cell tower threatens scenery of Cooks Butte

The Lake Oswego City Council announced that Cooks Butte Park would no longer be considered as a potential site for a telecommunications tower at its Nov. 5 regular session meeting. The announcement comes after the heirs of the family who originally sold the land to the city withdrew their consent for the tower’s construction.

Clackamas 800 Radio Group — a conglomerate of different Clackamas County public safety agencies — led efforts to build the 180-foot tower in order to replace what they and LO Police and Fire officials call a decrepit system. According to officials, Cooks Butte Park was the best location in Lake Oswego because of its elevation and openness. The tower was intended to improve radio communications for first responders, especially during a natural disaster, such as a major earthquake. The area around Cooks Butte currently has spotty coverage and dead zones, which the tower would have helped to fix. The addition of the tower would have also improved communication capabilities in several other areas around Lake Oswego, including Lake Oswego High School.

Aside from its massive height, the tower would have required additional infrastructure, according to Clackamas 800 Radio Group’s proposal to the city. The tower would have required several pieces of ground equipment, including a generator, propane tank, and shelter enclosed in a 50-foot by 50-foot fenced compound.

Homeowners near the park and frequent visitors to the park were alarmed when they learned of the tower’s height and additional ground pieces, fearing that the tower would ruin a beloved community park. As a result, neighbors formed Save Cooks Butte, a grassroots movement to oppose the construction of the tower. Members of Save Cooks Butte claimed that city officials did not communicate clearly with residents during the early planning stages. City officials dispute this claim.

Regardless, Save Cooks Butte was able to secure a major win at the Nov. 5 meeting, when the council bowed to the original owners’ disent. The land that is now Cooks Butte Park used to belong to the Emery family. When the family sold the land to the city, they asked for a guarantee that the city would allow the land to remain undeveloped. When the proposed tower came along, the remaining members of the Emery family consented to its construction. In a major reversal at the council meeting, though, Mayor Kent Studebaker announced that the heirs had withdrawn their support and consent, meaning the project could not go forward.

With the city and community still in need of a new emergency communications tower, city officials will now search for a new location. City officials, from the start, have maintained that Cooks Butte Park was the best location, arguing that the city examined several potential sites over several years before landing on the park.