GRESHAM, Ore. – A proposed tower on Gresham’s Walter's Hill has angered Gresham mayor Shane Bemis, who asked Portland Mayor Charlie Hales to “slow down his thundering bureaucracy.”
The City of Portland told Gresham Friday that it would be submitting a land-use application to build an emergency communications tower on top of Walter’s Hill, which offers views of downtown Gresham and Main City Park.
Bemis said the 140-foot tower would mar one of Gresham’s “significant views.”
"I asked Mayor Hales by letter, email, and phone call to please slow down his thundering bureaucracy and consider partnering with us to find an alternative,” Bemis said.
“This is a plan that has been in the works since 1999,” said Dana Haynes, spokesman for Mayor Hales. Haynes said the City of Portland started leasing the land on Walter’s Hill in 1999 and purchased it in 2010 with the intent to build the communications tower.
Hanes said Portland purchased the land because it offered a spot where the tower's signal could be unobstructed.
“You have to have the tower on high ground or it doesn’t work,” said Haynes.
The proposed tower would be part of a network of nine emergency communications towers.
“We understand that a tower on Walter’s Hill will be controversial for some people in Gresham,” Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said. “This enhanced radio system will provide better communications for the entire region, in the event of a disaster or large-scale emergency. This is a public safety issue for everyone.”
According to Bemis, the two mayors discussed the proposed tower on July 26. Bemis said Hales agreed to look for alternative solutions, but instead submitted the land-use application.
Haynes said the application was submitted because of a deadline which, if missed, could stall the process for 180 days.
“We’re going to try to hit their deadlines,” Haynes said.
He said Hales is open to other options for the tower, and said a third party analysis was under way. But Bemis said the City of Portland was not considering other possibilities.
"They just don't care enough to work with us to find them,” said Bemis. “You can put a parking garage or a tower anywhere, but you only get one chance to protect the skyline in our special places from being unnecessarily marred.”
Bemis said he will continue to fight the proposal. "I was born at night, but not last night," he said.