Whatcom hearing examiner denies permit for radio tower in Point Roberts

Residents fighting a proposed radio tower got the news they had hoped to hear for the past year and a half: The tower will not be allowed.

The Whatcom County hearing examiner surprised an international coalition of tower opponents on Tuesday, Oct. 21, when he announced he will deny a permit application for five, 150-foot towers that would have been built near the Canadian border. The applicant, KRPI AM 1550, provides Punjabi programming to a mostly Canadian audience.

Rules for Point Roberts do not allow structures higher than 45 feet.

“I have decided I am going to grant the motion to deny the application on the basis that the height requirements of the Point Roberts Special District apply,” hearing examiner Michael Bobbink wrote to the parties involved in a hearing that had been scheduled for next week: the applicant, BBC Broadcasting, Inc.; and the opponents, Stop The Radio Towers Cross Border Coalition. BBC Broadcasting is not related to the British network with a similar name.

The hearing, which was expected to take at least five days , was canceled. Bobbink said he expects to issue his formal decision next week.

“There have, literally, been tears of joy shed,” said coalition member Arthur Reber of Point Roberts. “We were beginning to think that the height restrictions in Point Roberts were going to be critical, but none of us really believed that the arguments made were so compelling that they would convince the hearing examiner to stop the hearings.”

Linda Atkins, a Bellevue attorney who represents BBC Broadcasting, said her client will appeal. The case would be heard by the County Council.

“The hearing examiner’s decision is at odds with the Whatcom staff recommendation to approve the project,” Atkins said.

The opposition had planned to meet Tuesday night to discuss strategy for the hearing. The event was quickly morphing into a celebration, coalition member John Lesow said, about an hour after the group received the news.

“I think we’re going to adjourn to the bar,” Lesow said.

The coalition had planned to argue the project did not satisfy the county’s adopted goals because it would not serve the residents where it would be built.

“They’re not adding any jobs” by building towers in Point Roberts, Reber said last week. “They like to pretend they’re going to boost our economy, and they’re not going to.”

“These are all debatable issues, and there would be back and forth and I think we’d have a good case to make, but the height issue was a rifle-shot issue,” said Bob Carmichael, the coalition’s attorney. “Either you meet it or you don’t, and if you don’t, why go through the whole hearing on it?”