Limbs Going Up on Canby’s Newest ‘Tree’

The branches are unlikely to appeal to many birds, though we still expect they’ll be full of “tweeting.”

That’s because Canby’s newest “tree” is really a 130-foot AT&T 4G wireless communications tower expertly disguised as an unassuming fir tree.

Don’t believe us? Just look at the photographic evidence, courtesy Canby Now’s Lisa Leir.

By way of comparison, here is a rendering the applicant submitted to the city in 2019 as an example of what the “stealth monopole,” or “monofir,” would look like at the proposed location next to the Pacific Pride commercial fueling station just off Highway 99E.

We, of course, were always more partial to our own series of “stealth” designs for the project, which didn’t appear to have caught on with wireless officials or the city — although Sharon Gretch, a representative for the project, did remark at an Aug. 26, 2019, Canby planning meeting that she was “very much in favor” of the one with the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

The Canby City Council approved the project in October 2019 by a 4-2 vote, with dissents from Council President Tim Dale and Councilor Tryg Berge, neither of whom sought reelection in November.

The move overturned a previous decision by the Canby Planning Commission, the majority of which had been skeptical about the project’s design and proposed location — in a densely packed commercial area where the tower might cause disastrous damage if it collapsed and its “break-point” design failed to work as intended.

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The majority of councilors ultimately sided with AT&T and the project moved forward — though more slowly than initially anticipated.

Reduced cellphone usage along 99E, in downtown Canby and, especially, at nearby Canby High School for much of 2020 may have made the project somewhat less urgent for AT&T than it had seemed the previous year.

The company said the new structure was needed because portions of Highway 99E currently have “minimal to no 4G voice service,” and AT&T’s existing coverage is at or near capacity in this area. Engineers identified this area of need through analysis of market demands, customer complaints, service requests and other data.

AT&T representatives told city officials during the 2019 process that the tower needed to be located approximately in the center of the targeted zone in which the company would like to improve 4G LTE coverage and capacity: an area from South Ivy Street to Barlow Road, including Canby High School and businesses along 99E.

It also had to be taller than everything else around it to, in the company’s words, “clear the clutter.” Buildings, hills, bridges and other structures (along with, you know, real trees) can weaken or even block wireless signals, so this tower needed to be taller than all of that stuff.

The monofir is not part of the coming 5G wave — which the City of Canby has been prepping for — and will not provide 5G service. Unlike 4G, 5G cells are much smaller and can be placed virtually anywhere — without the need to construct large towers.

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