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New Update on the Towers Project in Point Roberts

Time for an update on the international squabble that has erupted over the plan to put a ridiculous array of radio transmission towers on our isolated, funky exclave of Point Roberts. As noted in earlier postings, here and here, this fight started well over two years ago when we formed an international coalition of Canadians and Americans to block the project. As explained in the earlier of the two blogs, our “Cross-Border Coalition” was formed because the signal these towers would broadcast was to be at the maximum the FCC allows and would flood the town of Tsawwassen in British Columbia with blanketing interference.

For those who don’t know, blanketing interference occurs within a determinable radius of radio towers and disrupts electronic equipment, compromises the functioning of anything with a receiver, interferes with cell phones, slows down dsl lines, wrecks HAM radio operations and can, in fact, produce unwanted sounds coming through any speaker. The signal was to be broadcast at 50,000 watts and aimed due north, right into Canada. The 22,000 residents and businesses of Tsawwassen were going to get hammered.

As explained in the second blog, we won Round I. Our legal team filed a pre-hearing petition to deny based on zoning codes. The judge who functioned as the Hearing Examiner for Whatcom County agreed with our argument and ruled that the project violated the height restrictions that are imposed in the county’s regulatory zoning code. He denied the application for a permit and cancelled the hearings that had been scheduled.

This was quite a remarkable decision in that a full week had been set aside for the hearings. But his ruling was that none of the many, many issues that BBC Broadcasting (and, no, this company has nothing to do with the UK’s famous “Beeb” — it is a local corporation) wanted to bring into the proceedings were relevant. If the towers had to be 150’ high (as the FCC had determined) then they violated local zoning codes and couldn’t be permitted.

BBC, of course, appealed to Whatcom County Council. Their argument was that a radio station is an essential public utility and that the zoning codes don’t apply because they are pre-empted by Federal regulations. The Hearing Examiner rejected this claim. The station was already received in Point Roberts from its current location so moving didn’t make it essential. In addition it was noted that the FCC has, in fact, never pre-empted a local zoning code.

Tonight Council issued its ruling. It voted, unanimously, to support the Hearing Examiner’s decision that his ruling was made correctly in law and that no permit should be issued. In short, we won Round II.  

We had one hell of a party at the Rose and Crown. Two dozen members of the Coalition toasted the ruling and felt a rich, deep warmth run through our veins.

This has been one hell of a fight. It’s been going on now for two and half years, since August, 2012 when we first discovered that the FCC had approved the project and that the County’s Planning and Development Services was processing the paperwork.

As those earlier blog postings describe, it has involved Industry Canada, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission, the FCC, the FAA, Whatcom County Planning and Whatcom County Council. Politicians on both sides of the border have gotten involved including Vicki Huntington, the representative to the British Columbia Legislative Assembly, the Honourable Kerry-Lynne Findlay, Minister of Revenue and the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Industry Canada, Suzan DelBene, our Congresswoman and Senator Patty Murray.

But, since the fat lady is still warming up in the wings, it ain’t over yet. No official announcement has been made but all the hints in the air suggest that BBC will make yet another appeal. This next level will likely be a “LUPA” or an appeal based on the land-use protection act. These kinds of appeals are, as our legal team notes here, no joke. If they do, we will enter Round III. I’ll let you know what happens next.

If anyone out there is feeling generous, go here where you can make a donation to the cause. Battles like this aren’t cheap. So far our legal fees in DC and locally have run close to $170,000. It’s all been raised locally by us and at a host of events, silent auctions, fundraisers, street fairs and good old door-to-door solicitation. If they file a LUPA appeal it’s going to cost us another $25,000 minimum to fight it. The other side has deep pockets. We barely have pockets.

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