City’s planners approve 113-foot monopole

The Port Orchard Planning Commission voted 4-1 last week to allow Cingular Wireless to tear down its current 60-foot monopole and replace it with a 113-foot cell tower.

The tower is home to a nest of green non-native parrots called “Quaker” or “Monk” parrots that have been hanging around the city for months.

“They are an exotic bird that escaped in transport,” said Port Orchard Planning Director Joanne Long-Woods.

Kate Clark, a member of the Olympic Bird Fanciers Club who specializes in rescuing exotic birds, spoke at the meeting, providing the commissioners with information on the birds and her proposal for taking them off the tower humanely.

According to Clark, the parrots are not indigenous to the state of Washington. The six original birds were released accidently by a breeder in town and are native to Latin America. Clark said through her research and from watching the birds she has learned the parrots are quite prolific breeders — in just three and a half years the birds went from six to approximately 30.

Clark said there is cause for concern, since all six original birds were related and the constant in-breeding can cause disease.

She said sick birds can harm indigenous bird populations, as well as people. The tower is located on Mitchell Avenue and often obtain food from backyard bird feeders, just like native birds.

She said they more than likely made their nests on the tower because of the heat generated. It’s a lot warmer in Latin America.

Clark said in the meeting she found Cingular to be very community-oriented and willing to work with her on saving the birds by making humane decisions regarding their future.

Clark’s proposal includes trapping the birds, examining and treating them, quarantining the sick, separating the sexes to prevent further breeding and letting the parrots live on a piece of her property in 10-by-20-foot heated, tarp-covered flight cages.

She has contacted numerous bird doctors and even the United States Humane Society and has received overwhelming support.

However, she said later she felt affronted by the commission’s cavalier and uncaring attitude toward the birds.

“After their response to me at the community meeting, I thought, ‘I don’t need that,’ ” said Clark, who is no longer offering to take care of the birds.

Clark said she had hoped to make it a community project. She persuaded Ace Hardware to sell her materials at, or close, to cost.

But even her fellow members of the Olympic Bird Fanciers Club are not supporting her since she said members feel the birds should be able to fly free.

“My only concern is the welfare of those birds,” said Clark, who may offer her services again in the future. For now, she said she is discouraged by the lack of support she has received — especially from the City of Port Orchard.

According to Planning Commissioner Fred Chang’s understanding, the birds are not endangered. He said he is more worried about monopole height approval.

“I was worried that we were approving something that we didn’t have any current standards for,” Chang said.

To accommodate Chang, the commission also passed a separate motion asking the city to review potential standards for cell tower height restrictions.

The issue will go before the Port Orchard City Council on April 11 in the form of a public hearing where both Woods and Chang expect bird lovers to express themselves in favor of doing something about the parrots.

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