Montezuma County commissioners are urging a telecommunication company to consider another location for a tower planned in a commercial and residential neighborhood south of Cortez.
AT&T is seeking approval for a 100-foot tower on private land off County Road 24.3 in a commercial-industrial area that also includes residences.
The county planning and zoning department approved the project, but commissioners are hoping a different location can be found. They offered space at the nearby county landfill as an alternative.
“I’d like to see it go back to the engineer and see if it can be relocated away from that area of concentrated public if possible,” said commissioner Jim Candelaria.
Planning and zoning said the projects’ location at Road 24.3 complied with the land-use code and setbacks, and would be in a commercial industrial zone. The project has approval from the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration.
But some neighbors have objected, claiming the structure would hurt property values, and they had concerns about potential health impacts from radio frequency radiation.
The tower’s location in the landing pattern for the nearby Cortez Municipal Airport is also a concern of neighbors and a planning board member.
The FAA required the tower to be lowered from its original 150 foot height, to 100 feet, because of its proximity to the airport. They decided that no hazard light would be on the tower because it could be confused with nearby runway lights,
“At the landfill, there are no neighbors and the tower could be as high as you want,” said commissioner Larry Don Suckla.
AT&T will be locating wireless services on the tower as part of the First Net project designed to improve wireless communications for first responders, said Shelly Neace, director of programming and development for Horizon Tower, presenting on behalf of AT&T.
AT&T won the contract, and in exchange can locate its wireless network services on the tower, but First Net emergency services will take precedence.
“Its priority is public safety, and it will also provide competitive wireless service to the local community,” Neace said.
She said its location at Road 24.3 was based on an engineering study, coverage objective, meeting local regulations and access to power.
The engineer will be contacted regarding the county request to study whether there is another feasible location, Neace said.
As part of the telecommunication project, another tower is being considered for construction on the east side of Cortez, near the current radio towers.
The metal structure affixed with telecommunication equipment would be located near five businesses, and homes are in the general area as well. It meets the 100-foot setback from structures requirement.
During the planning board hearing, planning commissioner member Kelly Belt said the board had heard concerns from neighbors about the tower, including about the potential health impacts from the electronic equipment.
Neace responded that radio frequency levels on towers are strictly regulated by the FCC to protect human health, and that the tower operates far below the maximum allowable levels. The tower would not have 5G technology.
She added that under the 1996 Telecommunication Act, it is prohibited for local governments to consider health issues on the location of a telecommunication facility because it has been determined by federal regulators that it is a non-issue.
Jim Young, who owns Cortez Mini Storage near the proposed tower, said he would like to see the plan denied because of its “poor location” near the airport and concerns about health impacts.
“The regulators are from a separate state. We have to make decisions on what is good for our community,” Young said.
Neace responded that telecommunication towers have been heavily studied for health impacts and have been determined to be safe by the FCC.
The hearing on the project with information on any potential new locations was continued to 2 p.m. May 28.