Council to consider wireless service rules

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— After at least a year of waiting, wireless telecommunications companies may soon be given the go-ahead to begin designing the towers and poles necessary to expand Steamboat's wireless service.
Planning Director Wendie Schulenberg will present a preliminary plan to City Council for approval tonight directing wireless service providers on building wireless facilities in Steamboat. The city is in the midst of a moratorium on the construction of wireless telecommunications facilities, but that moratorium will end on Oct. 16.
The preliminary wireless facilities master plan was written so that the city would have a document that it can present to service providers before drawing up a final wireless master plan.
It includes provisions recommended by council Sept. 19 at a wireless facility work session.
Among those provisions are application requirements, structural, design, and environmental standards and suggested penalties for non-compliance with regulations.
For instance, the city can require a provider to use special design techniques so that the sites blend in with the surrounding area.
Telecommunications towers are often built in the shape of trees or designed to mimic a building's existing architecture.
Meanwhile, wireless phone companies, such as Sprint, have been chomping at the bit for at least a year to get sites up so they can provide digital wireless service to Steamboat's residents and visitors.
Sprint proposed to replace an old antenna on the top of Barrows chair lift at Howelsen Hill last year in order to give Steamboat residents and visitors 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, they tabled it after hearing from another cellular company that was wary of Sprint's plans.
Because of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, wireless companies have to be allowed equal access to facilities' sites.
Although the companies can co-locate facilities, the poles and towers housing the facilities would grow with each added site.
The city was worried that Howelsen would eventually look like a giant pincushion.
In addition, the city has applied to designate Howelsen Hill a historic site, protecting it from wireless construction. That application is still pending.
Depending on how the City Council votes tonight, the Planning Department will meet with telecommunications companies to discuss their options and help draw up the final master plan.

To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203 or e-mail asalzman@amigo.net.

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