AT&T proposed two towers last year to improve service in Puna, and both were met with “considerable public backlash,” reported West Hawaii Today. One tower, for Kurtistown, was approved in June. The second tower, planned for Hawaiian Paradise Park (HPP), was denied due to concerns over a playground within its fall radius, as well as questions about whether AT&T had legal access to the property.
In July, AT&T filed a federal lawsuit against Hawaii County. The suit argued that the 105-foot tower’s fall radius only intersected a corner of the playground’s basketball court and pointed out that AT&T had secured a signed letter of authorization from the HPP Owners Association, reported West Hawaii Today.
Last Thursday, at the virtual Windward Planning Commission meeting, AT&T site acquisition specialist Andrew Tomlinson presented a revised proposal. He recommended moving the tower 13 feet 2 inches north and east, positioning the playground outside of the tower’s fall radius. With those changes in place, the commission voted to approve the 4G HPP tower permits, according to West Hawaii Today.
Public feedback at the online meeting was mixed. Eugene Elmer criticized the Planning Director, calling him “a disgrace to [his] position” for not exercising his authority to prevent harm to the community. “If you do not protect us from the towers and the harm that they cause … if you believe in a God at the end of this life, you will not be seeing Heaven,” Elmer concluded.
However, input from Hawaii Fire Department Battalion Chief Kazuo Todd and the Hawaii Police Department’s Hamakua commander Andrew Burian was positive. They both agreed that improving connectivity in Puna will help speed up response rates for emergency services, protecting both emergency personnel and residents.