The Sopris Sun was recently nudged by a reader to look into a legal notice that ran in the Oct. 13 issue regarding the construction of a proposed Verizon Wireless cell tower near Aspen Glen.
It turned out that the property in question, located on County Road 109 immediately south of Aspen Glen’s driving range, is owned by Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District (CRFPD). The fire department was deeded the property when Aspen Glen was first being developed.
According to Fire Chief Rob Goodwin, Verizon Wireless reached out a few years ago to propose leasing a piece of the lot to place a cell tower. The CRFPD board agreed to have Verizon pursue the endeavor but, pending the approval of its development, has not finalized a lease with the cellular company.
The proposal is for a 65-foot “monopine” telecommunications tower, which apparently would resemble a pine tree. According to the public notice, the anticipated lighting application would be medium intensity and include dual red and white strobes.
“We’re still interested in leasing a portion of it to them and they’re still interested in doing it, so hopefully at some point it will move forward and we’ll have better cell service in there,” Goodwin told The Sopris Sun.
Goodwin expects that once the permits have been approved and both parties sign a lease agreement, Verizon will pay a rent monthly for the portion of the land it uses.
Highway 82 commuters know that the section which spans Aspen Glen is a deadzone for cell service, and even more so do the residents in the area.
Not only will it improve cell service, but Goodwin believes it will have the added benefit of community safety and enhance emergency response. “Improved communications there is going to help everyone, including us … and having the ability to put any radio antennas we might need up there would help too. I think it would be very beneficial to public safety and to the public.”
There is an eagle protection zone which was recently contested when it came to additional development proposed in Aspen Glen on the north side of the river. The proposed tower is south of the river and about a mile away, as the crow flies, from the bufferzone. Goodwin said he knows about the bufferzone. He stated that he doesn’t believe it is anywhere near there, but acknowledged he is not the “right guy” to speak to that component.
Sheryl Bower, community development director for Garfield County, has not received any zoning application from Verizon. However, she stated that Verizon will need to get approval from the county before proceeding.
According to Heidi Flato, a communications manager with Verizon, the notice printed in the Oct. 13 issue was “the local public notice that is required as part of our NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] regulatory process.”
She added that the zoning process has not yet begun, which explains why Garfield County had not yet been notified about the proposed project prior to The Sopris Sun’s inquiry.
Verizon’s engineers examine current network usage and data trends to determine placement for small and macro cellular sites.
“We spend a great deal of time with each community to take into account unique needs while engineering the best possible network,” said Flato. When pressed about what sort of community outreach was performed in this case, she said, “I don’t have a lot of detail.”
“This proposed cell site in Carbondale will improve Verizon’s network coverage and capacity in the area — particularly important now and into the future, as many residents will continue to depend on reliable broadband service to work and learn from home,” Flato stated.