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Tower issues rise up again in Afton

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It has been four years since the Washington County Sheriff's Department erected its 800 megahertz telecommunications tower, or monopine, in the Afton Hills neighborhood in Afton, but it's still a topic of concern in the city.

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Afton City Council discussed the monopine during its Dec. 18 meeting.

As part of the conditional-use permit for the tower, a residential house, which was already located at the tower site, had to remain and be maintained by renters.

However, after four years, the Washington County Sheriff's Office has come forward and stated that it intends to remove the property from the tower site.

"They don't want to be landlords any longer," City Council Member Joe Richter said.

Washington County informed City Council that it wants to remove the house in August, once the current renters' lease is up.

However, a garage located on the tower site will remain for equipment and vehicle storage.

Afton's monopine, or stealth tower, is one of 14 similar towers scattered across Washington County by the sheriff's office as part of the 800 MHz radio system, which is used for public safety and emergency services communications. The towers went live in March of 2008.

@subhead:City concerns

@9on11:During last Tuesday's meeting, Richter said he would like to send a letter to Washington County expressing concerns over the removal of the house and the proposed plans moving forward.

Additionally, Richter said he would like the city to be involved with any future decisions related to the tower site.

"We want to have input of what is going to take place," he said. "It's a big change for us."

Some of the concerns Richter identified were: security issues, what's going to be left of the garage, what condition the land will be left in, how the changes will interfere with the other property owners and what the maintenance plans are.

"We want to be a part of the discussion of what's going to happen up there," he said. "I think it's our responsibility and our right to do that."

Council members questioned City Attorney Fritz Knaak whether or not that would be within their purview.

"Do you feel that we do have legitimate say in how this is going to develop," Richter said.

Knaak agreed with City Council that due to the significant change, it has a right to request involvement.

Additionally, Knaak said the city also has the right to review the CUP for the tower since the house was a part of the initial agreement.

"You can review the permission you gave them," he said. "It's a significant change in the conditions that were negotiated."

Afton resident Diane Dettman, who lives in the Afton Hills neighborhood, also spoke on the tower issue at the meeting.

"I'm concerned about the negative impact this can have," she said. "With the past experience with the county, I don't have a lot of trust in them.

"My biggest concern is that they are just going to let it go wild. We don't expect to see a groomed lawn, but we expect to see something that fits into that community."

City Council Member Randy Nelson suggested that when the city opens up discussions with the county, they suggest having the city manage maintenance of the property and the county reimburse them.

"The county has a lot on their plate and we have lawn mowers and people to do that stuff," he said.

City Council agreed to send a letter to the Washington County Sheriff's Office requesting the city be involved with future plans.

City Council also requested the letter inform the county that the body intends to review the CUP.

"There were a number of things that weren't thought of at the time," Mayor Pat Snyder said. "I think we should take this opportunity to discuss them."

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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