Steamboat Springs The city of Steamboat Springs has called a time out in the march toward the expansion of wireless telecommunications locally.
City Council voted 6-0 this week to pass an emergency ordinance placing a 90-day moratorium on applications for land-use permits for wireless communication facilities. The purpose is to give the city planning department more time to research the growing wireless industry and the most appropriate ways to accommodate it locally.
"We certainly want to accommodate these carriers," City Attorney Tony Lettunich told City Council. "It's not something we want to slow down.
The city's moratorium was prompted by last fall's application from Sprint PCS for a permit to build a new antenna. Sprint is building a nationwide digital phone network, and proposed building a new antenna atop Howelsen Hill.
The city Planning Commission voted unanimously on Oct. 29, 1999, to recommend approval of Sprint's plans. However, City Council heard testimony from another wireless firm urging the city to wait and consider accommodating other telecommunications companies interested in coming into the area, possibly from the same antenna site.
Council tabled the matter, and now it wants more time to study the ramifications of the Sprint proposal.
City planner Kathleen Easley said Friday the city simply doesn't have any provisions in its current development code that allow it to evaluate proposals for telecommunications sites.
Richard Leiser, a site acquisition consultant with Liberty Wire Star, working on behalf of Sprint, said he thought the moratorium was unjustified.
"Sprint has an application in and it was tabled," Leiser said. "They think it's very unfair they'll now be subjected to a moratorium."
Sprint proposed late last year to build a new wooden antenna on the lift shack at the top of Barrows chairlift at Howelsen. The lift shack already houses radio communications equipment for the city and Routt County.
Sprint proposed completely rebuilding and enlarging the shack in a style more compatible with existing buildings at Howelsen. The company proposed to transfer ownership of the new lift shack to the city, then pay to rent a portion of it back, continuing to share space with the city and county.
Sprint officials estimated they would pay $125,000 in rent over 15 years.
Lettunich said the city learned that Sprint's proposed 40-foot antenna tower could accommodate other telecommunications companies, but the individual antennas must be spaced 10 feet apart, limiting the number who could share it. Lettunich said he has heard that four to seven companies are considering Steamboat, and the city needs time to research how best to accommodate all of the companies without encouraging the proliferation of antennas.
"It's such a new field and it's growing so fast," City Manager Paul Hughes said. "We need time to figure out what questions to ask."
Staff attorney Dan Foote said the city of Steamboat is not alone in invoking a moratorium on new telecommunications sites. The governments he is aware of that have taken similar steps include: Medina, Wash.; W. Seneca, N.Y.; Haywood County, N.C., and Farmington, Conn.
Advertisements for Sprint boast that the company's digital cell phones provide a clearer signal than other systems. Sprint also is developing technology that allows business travelers equipped with an Internet-ready Sprint PCS phone and a laptop computer to make secure connections to their firm's computer network. The technology is intended to allow business travelers to check inventories, place orders and exchange e-mail from remote sites.
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