KRKO gets static over new antennas

By LESLIE MORIARTY

Herald Writer

SNOHOMISH — The peaceful agricultural valley surrounding Lord’s Hill may soon be home to as many as eight radio antennas stretching more than 400 feet into the air.

But not if some neighboring residents have anything to say about it.

Everett-based KRKO Radio has submitted an application for a conditional-use permit from Snohomish County to build five 466-foot-tall antennas at 11304 132nd St. SE.

Additionally, the application asks for permission to later build three towers at 425 feet tall.

The added towers will give the new talk-radio station a signal broadcast ability of 50,000 watts day and night, said Andy Skotdal, president and general manager of KRKO. The current two towers are 225 feet tall and are in the Lowell area in the Snohomish River Valley.

"Right now we are at 5,000 watts," Skotdal said. "This signal increase would make us one of only five radio stations in the Puget Sound region with the 50,000-watt capability."

Skotdal said the station would be able to be heard from the Canadian border to Olympia. He said there are areas of Snohomish County that can’t get a clear broadcast from any station, and the towers would eliminate that.

"There are residences in places along U.S. 2, and places north of Arlington and Stanwood where coverage lacks," he said. "Similar places exist in Island and Skagit counties too.

"With the stronger signal, those residents would be able to get radio broadcasts, including during emergencies when battery-operated radio is all they have."

Additionally, Snohomish County legislators’ views on issues such as transportation could be broadcast and heard from Olympia, Skotdal said.

Several sites for the towers were studied, he said.

"This has been a three-year process," he said. "I don’t think there is any rural area in the county where someone would not oppose this.

"But the reality is antenna towers can’t be in cities and urban areas."

The area is in a flood plain, but the wet surface actually allows for better AM signal reception, Skotdal said.

County senior planner Erik Olson said he has received only one letter from a pilot who has concerns about whether the towers will interfere with landings at Harvey Airport, south of Snohomish.

If approved, construction could begin next summer, Olson said.

But neighbors don’t want it in their backyard.

Jackie Swyer, who lives a few blocks away, met with 28 neighbors Sunday to warn them of the proposal. She and neighbor Janice Ellis spent Monday handing out leaflets at 300 homes.

"Radio towers don’t belong in the middle of the Snohomish Valley," she said. "There is so little of the valley left that hasn’t been developed. These towers would ruin the scenic view on Lord’s Hill which is so precious to us."

Swyer said there are more appropriate locations, possibly in an industrial area.

"Someone has to stop this project," she said. "This is a matter of safety and aesthetics."

Kandace Harvey, an owner of Harvey Airfield, added she has talked with the Federal Aviation Administration, saying the towers could endanger approaches to landing strips.

Skotdal, however, said the towers are below the maximum height allowed by law.

Comments may be made to Erik Olson, senior planner, Snohomish County Planning Department, 3000 Rockefeller, M/S 604, Everett, WA 98201.

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