City Council addresses neighborhood cell facility concerns
Glenwood Springs City Council held a special meeting Tuesday to address wireless communications but more specifically traditional cell towers possibly moving into town.
While appreciative of the council and city’s efforts at redeveloping its code, many residents in attendance said they were still very concerned about the potential for cell towers heading into residential areas.
Members of the public highlighted the need for more “teeth” and sharper verbs in the code to help give the city more authority in governing where these towers can and cannot go.
“I think they could tighten the language. Put some teeth into the language that’s in the proposed code,” Glenwood Resident Elizabeth Phillips told the Post Independent. “This is a very complicated issue, and there’s legal language that’s subject to interpretation.”
The city has found itself in an area where it has very little authority because of federal and state laws saying that wireless communications facilities cannot be unduly regulated by local governments.
Glenwood Springs City Attorney Karl Hanlon said in correspondence to the mayor and council, “Because of limitations imposed by state and federal legislation, the city has very little leeway in its ability to regulate the presence of telecommunication facilities.”
According to a fact sheet by the Federal Communications Commission dated April 23, 1996 — the year the United States Congress passed the Telecommunication Act — the law “prohibits any action that would discriminate between different providers of personal wireless services, such as cellular, wide-area SMR and broadband PCS.”
It also “prohibits any action that would ban altogether the construction, modification or placement of these kinds of facilities in a particular area.”
In other words, if a cellular service provider wants to connect such “facilities” in a particular area, regardless of zoning, they could. Local governments do have some leeway in regulating how those facilities appear.
Councilman Todd Leahy thought the new code, as written in regard to cell facilities, was sharp and needed a chance. However, Councilman Rick Voorhees asked to void the “encourage” words in favor of more authoritative verbs, which may send a stronger signal to cell companies.
“The purpose of a policy is so people can figure out how to get things done. Words like encourage and enhance are kind of hard to [comprehend], and so, when in doubt my advice is always to cut them and to get to the point instead,” Voorhees said.
While no vote was taken, council agreed the code could use a little sharpening here and there as it pertains to cell communications but still deemed it considerably strong as written.
“The showing that we had tonight doesn’t necessarily demonstrate that, in my opinion, there is a huge amount of opposition to this issue,” Mayor Mike Gamba told the Post Independent. “I think that there are a few people that perhaps still disagree with where we are at, but in a city of 10,000 people, having half a dozen that may disagree with our current code is pretty good.”