Wednesday, October 11, 2000
After leaving Sprint and others waiting to build cellular towers for almost an entire year, Steamboat Springs City Council approved a preliminary plan Tuesday under which the city will begin to review permits for wireless telecommunication facilities.
Planning Director Wendie Schulenberg presented the preliminary plan to the City Council based on suggestions council members made at a Sept. 19 worksession. Included in her proposal of the plan, Schulenberg explained that she had already spoken to Sprint about its proposal to build a wireless communications tower on Howelsen Hill and the city had agreed to push toward allowing a temporary facility on the hill downtown.
The permit Sprint would need to build the facility is contingent on a number of factors, though. For one, it has not yet applied for the permit under the new plan. If it meets the application requirements, Sprint will still have to deal with a pending historical designation application for Howelsen Hill. If the site is deemed a historical one by the Colorado Historical Society, the process of reviewing telecommunication permits will likely become more stringent. That historical designation will be up for review next Tuesday.
Schulenberg hopes the Sprint site can accommodate other providers who would put their equipment on the Sprint tower. Up to a point, co-location of telecommunication sites is a feasible way to address concerns about the density of these towers and poles.
Schulenberg will meet with service providers within the next week or so to address their concerns about the plan and begin to draw up a master plan, which would include a map of where the facilities would be located. Sprint's temporary facility would allow the company to begin providing wireless service to its customers without having to wait for the master plan.
"The idea of a temporary facility to allow us to go into a permanent facility later on is a good idea," said City Councilwoman Kathy Connell. The master plan will be completed and presented to council in less than six months, Schulenberg said.
Another service providers, Verizon Wireless out of Steamboat, sent representatives to the meeting to address concerns about the plan. Ann Closser, a consultant for Verizon, said that, while she agrees with the planning department's move to begin processing wireless permits, she is concerned that the plan has a number of faulty components.
First of all, Closser doesn't believe in the concept of a master plan at all. She thinks the applications should be assessed on an individual basis so as to take into account service providers' individual needs.
"Every provider's needs are different," Closser said.
Closser also felt that the city's policy of giving potential lessees on city-owned property first priority over those looking to lease privately-owned or state-owned land was unfair. Verizon is hoping to build a facility at Colorado Mountain College.
Council and staff responded by assuring Closser that Schulenberg will meet with service providers in order to assess their needs before drawing up the master plan. They also wanted to make it clear, however, that the city will not bow to the whims of private companies on this issue.
Because of the Telecommunication Act of 1996, wireless companies have to be allowed equal access to facilities sites. That stipulation was one of the reasons the city has delayed in responding to the demand for wireless facilities, council members said. The residents of Steamboat Springs currently have only two wireless companies from which to choose, only one of which Union Cellular offers digital service.
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