Violation hangs up cell tower near Woody Creek | AspenTimes.com

Violation hangs up cell tower near Woody Creek

Janet UrquhartThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Pitkin County commissioners refused Wednesday to allow construction of a cell phone tower near the Woody Creek racetrack because the tower is within 200 feet of a residence. Only, it’s not really a residence.The Sprint/Nextel tower has actually already received county approval, but staffers refused to issue a building permit for the project because of its proximity to a building that can’t be used as a house, but doesn’t meet the county’s code for other uses.Sprint and the Aspen Sports Car Club, which owns the property, turned to county commissioners to overrule the staff, but commissioners voted 4-1 to deny their appeal. Commissioner Patti Kay-Clapper, who cast the sole dissenting vote, said she wanted to give the applicants time to rectify the problem rather than issue an outright denial.Sprint/Nextel has been trying to locate a tower in the area since 1997, according to Chris Stryker with the cell service provider. It won approval for a tower at the racetrack last year with the condition that the building at the site not be used as a residence because it’s within 200 feet of the tower, which isn’t allowed under the county’s code.When the application for a building permit was submitted earlier this year, the county zoning officer checked to make sure the building wasn’t being used as a residence. A caretaker had been using it as a part-time residence, but wouldn’t in the future, club members said.At Wednesday’s meeting, club members said the building, which has a garage associated with the racetrack on its lower level, hasn’t been used as a residence for some time, and instead functions as a clubhouse and office. The building doesn’t meet county code for those uses, according to Lance Clarke, assistant director of community development. Making the second-floor clubhouse accessible to the disabled and providing a firewall that meets code between the garage and clubhouse would likely be necessary, he said.Club member Doug Allen and its president, Larry Winnerman, assured commissioners the building wouldn’t be used a residence and suggested that should be sufficient.”If it’s not a residence, it’s something else, and if it’s something else, it has to comply to code,” Commissioner George Newman said. “It doesn’t get any more simple than that.”The lease arrangement for the cell tower won’t cover the cost of modifications to the building, Winnerman said, telling commissioners the club, a group of racing enthusiasts, has fallen on hard times.”To run us through the mill for the next two or three years – we don’t want to do it,” he said.AT&T is also potentially interested in using the tower, Winnerman added.”You have an opportunity here to provide cell service,” he told commissioners.Commissioners weren’t swayed, though Commissioner Rachel Richards called the situation “awkward.”The non-compliant building came to light because of Sprint’s interest in a tower, she noted, suggesting the club look to Sprint to cover the cost of bringing the building up to code.Or, the club could abandon all use of the second floor of the building and the project could proceed now, commissioners said.The cost of modifying the building has not been determined, but after the meeting, Stryker said he would present the option of paying that bill to Sprint.janet@aspentimes.com