Saturday, December 23, 2000
Steamboat Springs More than two months after pushing forward a preliminary plan to process permits for wireless telecommunications systems, the city has just received its first application from Verizon Wireless.
Verizon, which is planning to mount four, 4-foot antennae on the side of Bogue Hall at Colorado Mountain College, already maintains one facility at Mount Werner on the upper gondola building.
Verizon submitted its application on Dec. 14 with photos of what the proposed antennae will look like when they are completed. They will be mounted on the southeast side of the building.
In compliance with the city's requirement that the owner of a wireless facility mitigate its visual impacts, Verizon will paint the antennae the same brick-red color as the building, where they will be attached under the eaves of the roof.
"They won't be discernible from a distance," said Ann Closser, a consultant for Verizon.
Verizon also will build a 12-by-20-foot shed to hold the equipment necessary for telecommunications service. That shed will be built to resemble other maintenance sheds on the CMC campus, Closser said.
Verizon, according to its application, will offer analog service through the site and will be able to offer digital voice and data services in the future.
The two wireless telecommunications companies currently offering service in Steamboat are Verizon Wireless and Union Cellular. When the FCC first established rules governing wireless telecommunications more than a decade ago, it only allowed two providers in each area. With the advent of new types of wireless service such as PCS technology, those rules have loosened. Union Cellular is the only provider with a digital facility in Steamboat. That facility is on Mount Werner. The company converted a former analog facility to digital. Verizon offers only analog service right now, according to spokeswoman Debra Havins.
"We do get lots of requests for digital service from our skiing communities," Havins said. "They'd like to take advantage of the benefits of digital service."
Havins said that Verizon recently put about $4 billion into upgrading its services throughout the country. That includes bringing digital service to communities that have only analog.
Steamboat Springs Planning Director Wendie Schulenberg said her department plans to deal with the Verizon application before the end of the year. Because the facility would be located more than 300 feet from any residential structures, there is no need to notify adjacent property owners of the proposal, Schulenberg said. The project won't go before the Planning Commission or City Council, instead it will be handled through a director's approval process.
If the application is approved, Closser said, her company will likely go immediately for a building permit.
"We really want to get it built as soon as we can," Closser said.
Schulenberg added that Sprint also is planning to send in an application for a site within the next week.
Sprint proposed to replace an old antenna on the top of Barrows chairlift at Howelsen Hill last year in order to give Steamboat digital cellular service. The city Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of Sprint's site on Oct. 29, 1999. When the proposal went before City Council, however, its members tabled it after hearing from another cellular company which was wary of Sprint's plans.
Because of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, wireless companies have to be allowed equal access to facilities sites, according to City Attorney Tony Lettunich. The specific meaning for the city of that nondiscrimination clause, however, is somewhat difficult to decipher.
Sprint's new application, depending on its specifics, may test the city's willingness to allow a site at historically significant Howelsen Hill and to possibly contend with the telecommmunications act. Sprint representatives were not available for comment Friday.