Lake Dillon Fire approves construction of Verizon tower in Summit Cove
Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue’s board of directors voted unanimously to approve the addition of a cell tower to their Summit Cove station at a Tuesday meeting. Lake Dillon Fire proceeded to sign a lease agreement with Verizon Wireless, leasing part of their land to the company to create a 4GLTE tower that could host at least one additional provider, concealed in a 42-foot “hose tower” that would match the existing fire station.
“I thought that the pro and con arguments were presented thoroughly, and the board members certainly did take to heart the concerns that the residents had,” Lake Dillon Fire spokesman Steve Lipsher said. “They came to the conclusion that they were trying to do something for the greater good of the community, and there was no way that all sides were going to be pleased.”
Tuesday’s meeting was held in response to several concerns presented by Summit Cove residents who live close to the fire station. Their main apprehensions were related to the radio waves emitted by a cell tower, potential changes in property values and the location of the tower itself.
“It was so frustrating,” said Summit Cove resident Toni Smierciak. “They act like this is the only option for it and it’s not. It’s just the easiest.”
Local Verizon Wireless representative Meagan Dorsch said the company chose the fire station for its central location within the Cove.
“We try to choose location within a geographic radius that meets our engineering specifications,” Dorsch said. “Overwhelmingly, we did hear a request for better wireless in the community.”
Lipsher added that most of the health claims about the tower were inconclusive, as the American Cancer Society, the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Control state that there is not enough evidence to link exposure to radiofrequency (RF) waves emitted from cell towers to cancer.
“That was the biggest debate, with fear of the unknown and things you can’t see,” Lipsher said.
In addition, the American Cancer Society notes that RF exposure at ground level is very low, as the signal waves travel horizontally from the top of the tower, rather than toward the ground.
Summit County Sheriff John Minor said the new tower would serve as an improvement to safety, rather than a detriment.
“I live in the Cove, and cell service has been abysmal for years,” Minor said, adding that the limited service would make it difficult to make 911 calls or receive text message alerts as an additional form of emergency communication.
“The stronger the signal, the better the text messaging,” he added. “There’s potential in the Cove for high wildfire danger. We issue evacuation orders through SC Alerts.”
He added that an additional cell tower would aid dispatchers to locate an emergency after receiving a 911 call.
The Property Piece
To minimize impact on the surrounding neighborhood, Verizon plans to conceal the new cell tower to match the fire station so that property owners will not see the antennas. The building’s emergency backup generator and AC units meet the county’s noise requirements, and only one fan will run at a time to minimize sound during the summer.
“We wanted it to be designed so that it looked appropriate for the fire station,” Lipsher said. “ We wanted to make sure this was not an intrusion in terms of noise or visual issues.”
Cindy Brady, a property manager with the Lake House Homeowners Association in Summit Cove located two blocks away from the station, said many of her tenants were pleased with the idea of a new cell tower.
“They are extremely happy that it’s going through,” Brady said, approving Lake Dillon Fire’s decision to proceed with the agreement. “I think they weighed everything, and thought the good outweighed the fears of homeowners.”
However, property owners neighboring the station had more hesitations with the new building. Maria Linzie, a Summit Cove homeowner who recently moved into a home next to the fire station, wrote a letter to Lake Dillon Fire expressing her concerns about the height of the proposed tower, as well as its effect on property values
“It is grossly unfair to the neighboring property owners to potentially limit the salability or value of their real-estate in such a careless manner,” Linzie wrote. “Please reconsider the placement of this tower and in the future a stronger effort toward limiting impact would be appreciated. This is not a small decision and much more care should have been taken in researching prior to finalizing plans.”
Summit County Assessor Beverly Breakstone said she was not aware of any changes to property values based on the presence of a cell tower. While the assessor’s office tracks a number of factors related to the value of a property, including views and the quality of the structure itself, she said the office has never measured to impact of a nearby tower.
“We track a number of things that impact people’s properties and this is just not one of them,” Breakstone said. “I think that if it’s well-designed and well-disguised, they will see minimum impact.”
While Verizon has not yet picked a contractor or announced a start date, they now have approval to lease the land from Lake Dillon Fire for $1,300 per month. AT&T recently received county approval to place another cell tower on the parcel near the Summit County Resource Allocation Park north of Keystone. Construction dates for the project have not yet been announced.
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