by Carol Dunn
WALSENBURG- On August 25, the Huerfano County Planning and Zoning Board heard testimony about three cell phone tower applications submitted by Viaero Wireless, based in Loveland. Henry Jacobsen, Engineering and Site Acquisition Specialist, said cell phone coverage along Huerfano County highway corridors is pretty good for Verizon customers, but not for other carriers. Viaero is a roaming partner for AT&T and T-Mobile.
A 185-foot guyed tower, referred to as “La Veta,” is proposed on four acres owned by Fred & Myrna Falk, about 0.4 mile off Highway 160 and northwest of the La Veta airstrip. A second guyed tower, referred to as the “Sangre,” would be located on one acre owned by the Sam Keeling family, about a mile above La Veta off Highway 160. A self-supporting or “strong” tower, would be constructed on a 45.7 acre site owned by Virgil Peterson, along Highway 69 near Badito. Jacobsen said the company prefers not to co-locate with other carriers on existing towers, so it would not be interested in the tower on Sheep Mountain. County Commissioner Roger Cain said he was “less than enthused” about the proposal because of that. Subsequent to a comment from the audience about satellite phones, Cain asked the Viaero representatives, “Would satellite coverage ever be economical to the masses?” Viaero Acquisitions Director Bob Eisenkorn replied that there are power, transmission timing and distance complications with satellite phones. “There must be a line of sight with the satellite,” he said.
La Veta resident Barb Kowalik cautioned that better coverage and more cell phone use could make Highway 160 even more dangerous than it is. About the scenic corridor, she said, “These towers are just another scratch on our painting.” Chip Kraynyk suggested the County issue a moratorium on all tower proposals until there is a comprehensive plan in place. Sam Law, an adjacent landowner, said her family would not speak for or against the towers, but she and others had specific questions about the size of the towers and the size and number of microwave dishes that will be mounted on them. Eisenkorn told the Board the towers are engineered to hold six dishes, each six feet in diameter.
P&Z voted 3-1 to recommend that the County approve the application for the Sangre tower. The Board voted unanimously to recommend denial of the application for the La Veta tower and 3-1 to recommend denial of the Peterson tower. The matter will be heard at the Commissioners’ meeting on September 2 at 10:05 am.
After the meeting, Jacobsen told the Journal, “They approved the Sangre but left us no path. The La Veta site is part of the fundamental backbone network serving this entire area of Colorado. There must be a very reliable path between Walsenburg and the Sangre site.”
Jacobsen added, “There are 151 power poles, I counted them, that go for seven and a half miles that have already compromised the viewshed.”