A Spokane-based communications company has until May 31 to tear down its illegal antenna on a mountaintop south of Post Falls.
The Kootenai County Commission Wednesday denied Courtesy Communications’ request for a conditional-use permit to operate the existing antenna and other equipment from Blossom Mountain. The commission also denied the company a variance to allow the one-acre commercial operation in a rural area.
Courtesy Communications is owned by John Sonneland, a Spokane physician and former Republican congressional candidate. The company provides pager and cell phone service throughout North Idaho and Eastern Washington.
Sonneland needs the county permit and variance to make the tower, built in 1984, legal. A First District Court judge gave Sonneland until May 31 to obtain county approval. Because the commission rejected Sonneland’s request, saying his attempts to rectify the situation were too late, the court is requiring Sonneland to remove the tower.
Sonneland wasn’t at the commission meeting but said later in a phone interview that he needed to speak with his lawyer before he could comment on his next move.
“It’s unfortunate,” Sonneland said. “Two out of the three of them (commissioners) are running for re-election. We will see how that goes.”
Commissioners Dick Panabaker and Rick Currie are vying for re-election in Idaho’s May 25 Republican primary.
The county has battled with Sonneland for years over the tower and officials claim he has violated almost every zoning law that applies to rural areas.
“There’s been nothing significantly new that was presented,” Commissioner Rick Currie said before making the motion to deny both requests.
A Kootenai County hearing examiner in March had recommended denial of the permit, saying it was an attempt to “justify the location of the illegal structure after the fact.”
Post Falls resident John Mack, who owns 240 acres surrounding the tower, praised the commission’s decision.
“You guys did a good job,” Mack told the commission.
Sonneland hasn’t been allowed to use the tower since August when the judge ordered Sonneland to stop until he complied with state and county law. The same judge granted Sonneland a 90-day extension in February to obtain the necessary permit and variance. The county opposed the extension because the county attorney claimed Sonneland was allegedly violating the initial court order by continuing to transmit from Blossom Mountain.
Sonneland’s attorney said that Sonneland wasn’t using the tower and that the company had switched to the Fancher Beacon, which is south of Spokane’s Felts Field airport, to transmit signals after the initial court ruling.
Sonneland’s attorney added that Day Wireless, which contracts with Sonneland to use the Post Falls tower, ignored Sonneland’s request for the company to stop transmissions and they had just become aware of the problem. The attorney said they would stop Day Wireless.
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