After a third review by Montezuma County officials, a telecommunication tower received final approval Tuesday for a location south of Cortez.
AT&T will build a 100-foot-tall tower on private land off County Road 24.3 in a commercial industrial area that also includes residences.
The county planning and zoning board recommended commissioner approval for the project because it complied with the land-use code.
On second review earlier this month, county commissioners asked AT&T to consider a different location away from the populated area, such as the landfill. But after listening to an engineer’s technical reasoning for the Road 24.3 location, the commissioners conceded and approved the project.
The tower will improve wireless communications in the area, AT&T officials said, and support communications for first-responders.
Radio engineer Steve Kennedy said the tower’s location is based on improving capacity for wireless customers in that area. He said the current wireless service infrastructure is maxing out because of an increase in user demand.
“Southwest of Cortez, the amount of users using the system is exceeding what the site can handle,” he said.
Demand will be offloaded onto the new tower, expanding capacity and service.
He compared it to devices slowing down during Thanksgiving dinner when all the guests are trying to access wi-fi off a limited home system.
“The more users, the slower the services,” Kennedy said. “We are seeing a need for the subscriber base along Highway 160.”
The landfill site would not be technically practical, he said, because of its distance from the populated area with wireless demand. Signal strength decreases over distance, requiring more and more power from wireless devices and the transmitter.
The project has approval from the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Some neighbors have objected to the location, 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 was also a concern, but it was approved by the FAA. The FAA required it to be lowered from 150 feet to 100 feet, and that no warning light be attached so it does not conflict with nearby runway lights.
The metal structure affixed with telecommunication equipment will be located near five businesses, and homes are in the general area as well. It meets the 100-foot setback from structures requirement.