Routt County sends contested cellphone tower back to Planning Commission

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— The Routt County Board of Commissioners let the air out of 40 rural residents Tuesday afternoon when they tabled a proposal by Union Wireless to locate a new telecommunications tower in their neighborhood.

Many members of the crowd had come to reiterate their opposition to the tower they said would intrude on views from their homes in Big Valley Ranch and Hilton Gulch. The commissioners agreed to take public comment but only on the tabling and not on the tower itself.

County Commissioner Doug Monger said the tabling was all about process and giving the Routt County Planning Commission another chance to address changes proposed by Union Wireless to reduce the visual impact of the tower.

Planning Commission voted, 4-3, on Sept. 26 to deny the application, but Union exercised its right to appeal the vote to the Board of Commissioners and protested that by denying instead of tabling its request, Planning Commission failed to take into consideration last-minute changes it had proposed to build a shorter “stealth tower.”

After only a few minutes of discussion, Commissioner Tim Corrigan moved to table the matter in order to send it back to Planning Commission for a new hearing Dec. 5.

Monger said he understood Planning Commission members felt unprepared to vote on Union’s amended proposal — which would have reduced the original 80-foot, lattice-style tower to a 50-foot tower that since has been identified as a “monopine” built to resemble an evergreen tree — but after consulting with county attorney John Merrill, Monger concluded that sending it back to Planning Commission was a necessary part of the county process.

According to meeting minutes, “we were heading to a tabling,” Monger said, “and then they moved into a denial motion. The commissioners are fully aware of the potential of this coming back to us, but I feel pretty strongly that procedurally, we should go back to Planning Commission and allow public comment (on the revised application) and allow for our process as it was intended to be. “

Commissioner Steve Ivancie agreed.

“It’s part of our process and a part of (the Planning Commission’s) job,” he said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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