Just another tower of ‘babble?’ | AspenTimes.com

Just another tower of ‘babble?’

Charles AgarAspen, CO Colorado

WOODY CREEK Can you hear me now? Not if you have Sprint Nextel cell phone service in the Roaring Fork Valley.That’s why officials from the company Wednesday requested approval from the Pitkin County commissioners to build a new 32-foot cell phone tower disguised as a pine tree adjacent to an existing 40-foot tower (also similarly disguised) on the W/J Ranch in Woody Creek used by cell phone service providers Verizon and T-Mobile.Company officials said the new tower would cover gaps in service along Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road, and could prove vital to area law enforcement, but neighbors of the proposed tower Wednesday asked county commissioners to block the development.”No one knows the effects of this,” said Meg Dangler, who held up a photo of her children playing in sight of the existing tower and she broke into tears voicing her concerns over her children’s health.”It’s ugly, and it’s horrible, and I don’t know how it got approved to begin with,” Dangler said of the existing tower she said sits 144 feet from her property line. “Please don’t approve a second one.” The adjacent service building hums day and night with the sound of air conditioners and generators, Dangler said.”We are less than 200 feet and getting those waves,” said Dangler’s sister Amy Covington, whose family lives in the opposite half of a duplex from Dangler. “We don’t want this in our backyard.”John Belkin, an attorney for the developer, said cell phone towers built in compliance with federal regulations are not subject to local review based on health issues.Sprint Nextel officials stressed that the new tower would create no noise and would require only a small service box adjacent to the existing building.A Sprint Nextel engineer said the company could share the existing tower with Verizon and T-Mobile but that would require extending the tower beyond the 40-feet limit of the current building code.Stan Clauson, a planner for the project, proposed working with Verizon and T-Mobile officials to reduce the noise of the existing facility and place additional trees and shrubs to better screen the site.Clauson said from a distance the tower “does blend into the landscape” and an additional tower would be “relatively little intrusion.”Lowe W/J LLC leases the property to Verizon and T-Mobile as part of negotiations from the 2004 subdivision process, county officials said. Formerly T-Mobile and Verizon operated cell towers on a nearby site under an agreement with former W/J Ranch owner Wilton Jaffe.Both the W/J and White Star Ranch homeowners associations recommended denial of the proposed tower. And the Pitkin County Planning and Zoning Commission denied the application July 3, saying the proposed tower was not “compatible” with the surrounding neighborhood.County commissioners Wednesday continued their decision until Oct. 10 to give Sprint Nextel officials a chance to make a formal proposal to the Woody Creek Caucus.”I feel they need to be heard,” Commissioner Michael Owsley said.”I don’t see why we would be compelled to make another mistake,” Commissioner Jack Hatfield said of the proposed tower.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com