Sprint returning with plans

Wireless provider still has its eyes on Howelsen Hill

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— Sprint, which recently sent a request to the city to place a wireless communications tower on Howelsen Hill, is the second carrier to present a proposal under the city's new wireless facilities plan. But unlike the first such application, presented by Verizon Wireless, the Sprint application is likely to be heavily scrutinized by a variety of governmental entities, say city officials.

For one thing, the Verizon site, located under the eaves of Bogue Hall on the campus of Colorado Mountain College, is more than 300 feet away from any residences.

Because it is so far from residences and because the applicant has agreed to mitigate the visual impacts of the antennae by blending them in with the building, the application will likely go through a planning director's approval process instead of going before the city Planning Commission and City Council. Any project reviewed under the director's approval process can be brought up in front of City Council, but is less likely to receive the same public scrutiny.

By the same token, the Sprint site is 300 feet from 75 properties, many of which are residential. All adjacent property owners will be notified of the proposal. Its proximity to the properties and its visibility will mean that the application will need to go through a systematic public process to be approved.

The proposed Sprint site, situated at the top of one of Steamboat's most cherished properties, also is likely to cause some controversy due to its location. Because Howelsen Hill is eligible for the National Historic Register after being accepted into the state register Dec. 13 , the facility is required to be reviewed under a federal "Section 106" process.

Section 106 of the Historic Preservation Act requires federal agencies to consider the possible adverse effects their actions may have on historic properties.

If the Colorado Historical Society finds that the company's 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, intergovernmental services director for the Colorado Historical Society.

Based on site drawings, the pole would likely be visible above the tops of the trees on Howelsen. The Historical Preservation Advisory Commission, after reviewing Sprint's first application for a 40-foot tower last year, asked the company to reduce the height of the tower. With an application for a 50-foot structure, it seems, Sprint has actually added to the height.

"The preservation commission will likely look at it very closely since we know it's of historical significance," said the city's historical preservation specialist, Laureen Schaffer.

The proposed tower, which would rise 50 feet above the top of Howelsen, would be constructed to look like a pine tree, according to Sprint's application. The 50-foot pole would replace a 25-foot pole that currently stands near the site.

The Sprint site would include the capability for collocation, meaning that at least one other provider may be able to put its antennae on Sprint's pole. That could cut down on the possibility that Howelsen would be overcome with enormous fake pines.

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