Opposition to Verizon proposal loud and clear
Post Independent Staff
“Can’t hear you now” was the refrain the Garfield County Commissioners heard repeatedly Monday as they considered Verizon Wireless’ proposal to construct eight cell phone antennas on a commercial building in south Glenwood Springs.
The people won a signal victory over the telecommunications giant when the commissioners voted 2-1 to reject the proposal.
Verizon argued it had been on the hunt for a suitable site to improve service on Highway 82 in what is known locally as “the Dead Zone” south of the city. According to Verizon, the antenna array would have improved service between 23rd Street and Red Canyon Road.
Verizon spokesman Brad Johnson said the company reached an agreement with John Colby, owner of Colorado West Upholstery at 2552 Highway 82, to erect the antennas on the roof of his building.
Although zoned commercial general, the area is heavily residential.
Johnson said the company rejected building a shield around the antennas to block electromagnetic emissions, as neighbors requested, because they would be too heavy for the roof to bear. It would, however, agree to build a screen around the two arrays that would shield some of the emissions, and would post signs warning people away from the antennas.
Don and Chris Lynch, who live directly behind the building, objected to the antennas, which they said would compromise Chris’ health. Chris Lynch said she is highly sensitive to electromagnetic radiation from the antennas, which would be about 20 feet from her house. If constructed, they would make it impossible for her to continue to live in her home, she added.
“Would you want this in your neighborhood where you’re living?” Chris Lynch asked the commissioners. “I really feel they can find a place away from a residential area. Please don’t let them take our neighborhood.”
The Lynches also rent part of their house to their daughter. They said they worried the close proximity of the antennas would decrease the value of their property as well as affect the rent they could charge.
A number of other neighbors spoke out in support of the Lynches and said they, too, believed the antennas would devalue their property.
However, Johnson countered that emissions from the antennas would emit only one-thirtieth of the levels Federal Communications Commission standards allow.
“Verizon always tries to be a good neighbor whenever possible. We take health and safety concerns very, very seriously,” he said. Because of the relatively low emissions levels outside the screens, “we decided no further mitigation was not required.”
“I’m sympathetic to Mrs. Lynch’s concerns,” said Dan McVaugh, an engineer with Atecs, a consultant to Verizon on shield and screen design, who also projected the emissions levels from the antennas.
“If she has this problem I’d advise her not to put herself in this situation,” he said. “There’s just so much we can do, and we can’t put a bubble around someone with a problem.”
Johnson also acknowledged the site was not the ideal location for cellular antennas.
“For the past two years we have looked at numerous locations,” he said.
All were rejected either because the site proved impractical for locating equipment or the company could not come to a financial agreement with the landowner.
Commissioner Tresi Houpt voiced her opposition to the plan.
“After hearing all the testimony … I think it would be advantageous to look for other locations,” she said.
“It’s already taken us two years to find the best fit. No other sites will work. As it stands right now we are in dire need of this site,” Johnson said.
Commissioners Houpt and Larry McCown exchanged heated comments as they debated the merits and detractions of the proposal. At one point McCown said, “Apparently we didn’t hear the same testimony.”
McCown appeared satisfied that no one could gain direct access to the antennas and thereby be exposed to radio waves. Houpt, on the other hand, championed the neighbors’ bid to block the project.
Commission Chairman John Martin, who had said little during the public hearing, broke the impasse. He put a motion on the table to deny the proposal because it was not a good location, could open the door for more antennas in the future and because Verizon did not demonstrate a pressing need for the facility.
Houpt supported the motion. McCown voted no.
Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510
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