Steamboat Springs As wireless telecommunications companies try to push Steamboat Springs into the future, the city wants to make sure it protects the past.
Although City Council approved a preliminary master plan for wireless telecommunications facilities on Oct. 10, Sprint and other wireless carriers are being held up by, among other things, possible conflicts between wireless telecommunications towers and a historical site.
Wireless phone companies have been chomping at the bit for at least a year to get sites up so they could provide digital wireless service to Steamboat's residents and visitors. Sprint, for one, waited almost an entire year for permission to build a wireless communication facility on Howelsen Hill. However, after Sprint received a copy of the master plan and realized its original proposal would not comply with the city's regulations, the company withdrew its application. It is now reviewing the difficulties it may encounter in attempting to build a facility. Officials from Sprint could not confirm whether Sprint will reapply.
"There are some things in (the wireless facilities plan) that are not very good for the carrier," said Richard Leiser, a telecommunications consultant for Liberty Wirestar, which is handling the Sprint PCS site acquisition. Leiser was especially concerned that the city is requiring applicants to renew facilities leases every five years and can require companies to use the latest technology in facilities construction. When council approved the wireless facilities plan, Planning Director Wendie Schulenberg explained she already had 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. Sprint, however, may not be interested in a temporary permit.
"They won't want to do a temporary site if they can't do a permanent one," Leiser said.
One of the biggest challenges to Sprint's application, however, is the fact that Howelsen Hill is being considered by the state historical society for recognition as a historical site.
On its own, designation of Howelsen as a historical site does not preclude carriers from building a wireless facility. That decision is up to the city.
But if the Colorado Historical Society finds that a communication tower would have an adverse impact on a historical site, it could ask Sprint to mitigate that impact or suffer possible legal action, said Kaaren Hardy, Colorado Historical Society Intergovernmental Services director. This "Section 106" review will begin if and when Sprint submits an application and will be completed within 30 days. Sprint is subject to this review because it is looking to establish service under the Federal Communications Commission, Hardy said. Section 106 of the Historic Preservation Act requires federal agencies to consider the possible adverse effects their actions may have on historical properties.
Howelsen already has been deemed eligible for historical designation by the historical society after being nominated by the city last year and will be considered for full designation on Nov. 17.
"The ski industry is a very important part of Colorado history," Hardy said, explaining the site's eligibility.
Although Sprint would have been subject to state review regardless of the city's decision to nominate Howelsen for historical designation, its historical eligibility helped highlight Sprint's possible complications.
Also, because of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, wireless companies have to be allowed equal access to communication sites. Although the companies can co-locate their facilities, the poles and towers housing the facilities would grow with each added company. Because of the nondiscrimination policy in the Telecommunications Act, the city may have to sustain as many as eight wireless carriers on Howelsen, said City Attorney Tony Lettunich. The city is worried the facilities may come to visually pollute Howelsen.
The city's Historic Preservation Advisory Committee is especially concerned about the possibility of more and more equipment on Howelsen.
"I believe it would have an adverse and detrimental effect on the resources because of the potential for more towers," said Loreen Schaffer of the preservation committee.
Although the towers can be constructed to look like trees, the city may be dealing with eight fake trees scattered throughout Howelsen or, with co-location, a 108-foot giant spruce.
"We might not be able to sustain a challenge from another carrier," Lettunich said. "We might have to sustain a forest of artificial trees."
Another service provider, Verizon Wireless of Steamboat, also is concerned about the preliminary facilities plan. Ann Closser, a consultant for Verizon, said she is concerned the plan has a number of faulty components. Closser feels 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 is unfair. Verizon is hoping to build a communication site at Colorado Mountain College.
Council and staff responded by assuring Closser that Schulenberg will meet with service providers to assess their needs before drawing up the master facilities plan. They also wanted to make it clear, however, that the city will not bow to the whims of private companies on the issue.
To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org