Boulder County is reviewing an application for an 89-109* foot tall telecommunications tower above Boulder. The cell tower company asked the County for a temporary hold after neighbors uncovered numerous misrepresentations and defects in their application. Our community needs to stand ready to carefully scrutinize their next submission.
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How Many Towers after This One?
A Bad Precedent
When you allow special exceptions to your Comp Plan, you create a legal precedent. It can become very difficult to prevent future special exceptions.
We Could be Facing Many Towers Soon
The pressure to accept towers along the Front Range will only grow. That’s why we need to take a stand now to find a better solutions that works for all communities.
Boulder County has a Great Comprehensive Plan
Below are quotes from our County Plan, which might be helpful in a letter to the planning Commission.
Rural Character & Visual Impact
“…several issues have been identified by the public, appointed commissions, and elected officials indicating that the current regulations, alone and in their present form, have not been as effective in implementing the goals and policies of the Comprehensive Plan as was originally anticipated. Some of these concerns include… There has been a perceived loss of rural character and visual intrusion to the scenic qualities of the county due to an inconsistency in scale between new and existing development and the siting of development on ridges, mesas and other prominent landscape features.”
Protect Ridgelines – PPA 1.07
“All efforts shall be made to preserve and enhance the county’s landscape and unique topography through the retention of mature vegetation, ridgelines, drainageways and other natural features.”
Minimize Impacts to Environmental Conservation Areas – ER 3.04
Development outside of ECAs shall be located and designed to minimize impacts on and connectivity between ECAs.
Protect Scenic Resources – B6
Boulder County shall continue to protect prominent natural landmarks and other unique scenic, visual and aesthetic resources in the county.
Preserve Scenic Vistas – ER 1.04
Scenic vistas shall be preserved as much as possible in their natural state.
Protect Views from View Protection Corridors – OS1.02.01
To the extent possible, the county shall avoid, minimize, or mitigate impacts on views from view protection corridors including, but not limited to, those shown in mapping that accompanies this element. The county may preserve these scenic corridor areas by means of appropriate dedication during the development process, reasonable conditions imposed through the development process, or by acquisition. This, however, does not preclude the county from providing essential and appropriately planned road improvements.
Preserve Valuable Scenic Vistas – OS1.02.02
Areas that are considered as valuable scenic vistas and Natural Landmarks shall be preserved as much as possible in their natural state.
What is the Comprehensive Plan?
“The Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan seeks to protect the natural environment of the Boulder Valley while fostering a livable, vibrant and sustainable community. The plan provides a general statement of the community’s desires for future development and preservation of the Boulder Valley, and the city and county use it to guide long-range planning, the review of development proposals and other activities that shape the built and natural environments in the Boulder Valley.” – Boulder County Government.
Why Is Defending Comp Plans important?
Allowing special exceptions to the Comprehensive Plan can make it more difficult to deny similar special exceptions later. Counties are already being sued by cellular carriers in Colorado. This makes it especially important to deny applications like this one that clearly diverge from the Comp Plan’s vision.
The proposed tower site adjoins or overlaps an Overland Habitat Connector cited in the Plan. Is this a bird migration path? What impact will it have on wildlife due to flight collisions, noise, and/or FAA lighting?
Activism Defines Boulder
As the official County video states, “there is a history in Boulder County of active community engagement.” Please act now and remind our government that we won’t abandon our landscapes, nor our roots.
A history of activism
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A fire at this location would block one of only two emergency evacuation routes for hundreds of residents. Safer sites exist but Atlas Tower failed to explore them as the County Regs require.
Fire is the biggest threat Boulder residents face. A single landowner and its contractor shouldn’t be allowed to profit at the expense of increasing fire risk to Front Range communities.
Visual Impact, FAA Lighting?
The tower, which may require a 24/7 red flashing light by the FAA, will be visible from numerous public areas including Chautauqua Park, StarHouse, Betasso Preserve, Bald Mountain Scenic Area, Flagstaff Mountain and Sunshine Canyon.
Atlas Tower did not submit a coverage map with its proposal. This does not appear accidental. An expert's analysis* shows that most Pine Brook Hills residents won't even benefit from this tower, and the benefits for the broader community are unproven. Atlas failed to explore viable alternative sites, as County Regs require. The expert's analysis shows that other sites would provide more effective coverage.
The proposed tower lies within or near the County’s “Overland Habitat Connectors” as cited in its Comprehensive Plan (p 153). What impact will it have on wildlife including pollinators & birds?
Health & Safety Risks
Did you know the FCC & Congress have prevented local zoning boards from using health and safety concerns to deny cell towers? But that shouldn't prevent you from acting... there is a growing body of evidence of the dangers, from cancers in humans and animals, to devastating effects on pollinators.
Boulder County has good zoning. Special exceptions, when approved, can weaken zoning and make more towers likely. This application is in conflict with the County Comprehensive Plan.
The proposed site is too close to homes and families oppose it in large numbers. The proposal has caused considerable dismay locally. Concerns include loss of community character, visual and noise pollution, health issues, loss of property values, and lack of a transparent, community-based process.
The FAA may require 24/7 red flashing lights, despite Atlas Tower's claim that no lighting is required. And the cell tower company can increase the tower height an extra 20' with no additional public input. Boulder County would be powerless to stop either a height extension or FAA lighting per federal regs.
See: 47 CFR Sec.1.6100(b)(7)(i), (c)(1), available here: Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (eCFR).
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County Meets with Citizens
Planning Department leaders held a video conference with citizens as requested in the March 5 community letter. They listened to concerns about Atlas Tower's misconduct and the many risks to the community. The County agreed to re-notify the community when Atlas Tower submits further information.
Application Put on Hold
Atlas Tower requested that Boulder County place its cell tower application on hold to enable it to address the numerous deficiencies and misrepresentations uncovered in its application. This is an important first victory for the community but the struggle is far from over. The County estimates that only 106 days will remain on the FCC’s “shot clock” once the hold is lifted. This means that the County will have to reach a decision within that time frame or risk automatic approval of the cell tower by the FCC. Please don’t wait for the hold to be lifted.
Safety Issues Raised
Boulder Mountain Fire Protection District tells County "[Atlas Tower] has failed to address safety issues such as, but not limited to, increased risk of wildfire and interference with evacuation procedures."
Neighbors Send Letter to Atlas Tower Owners - Boulder Residents Randi & Nathan Foster - No Response
"We write to appeal to you as our neighbors . . . . We believe that a fair conclusion to be drawn from what we now know about this project is that it was pursued without sufficient consideration of vital information." Atlas Tower and its owners provided no response.
Landowner and Atlas Tower Hold Community Meeting - Promises Unmet
Landowner apologized to neighbors claiming to be unaware of relative height differences between the water tank and trees compared to the cell tower. Atlas Tower's lawyer refuted that Landowner was unaware of height differences and promised to provide numerous items of additional information to neighbors but failed to deliver.
Public Health Water Quality Sends Referral
Boulder's various departments have begun signing off on the project.
Referred to Other County Agencies
Boulder County sent the application to departments for their review and recommendations. These include Parks, Wildfire, Transportation, Building Division, DRSM, and Public Health Water Quality.
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