Town of Breckenridge grants delay on Verizon’s proposed antennas as opposition grows
February 22, 2018
Opposition continues to mount as a decision on Verizon's plan to build a new cluster of nine cellphone antennas atop a building in Breckenridge's downtown historic district has been delayed until at least next month.
"I think the Verizon application is in trouble, and you can quote me on that," said C.J. Milmoe, one of the most vocal opponents who's trying to keep the proposed wireless facility out of the historic district.
On the other side, a company spokeswoman painted Verizon's request as nothing out of the ordinary and didn't express any concerns regarding the future of the proposed facility.
"Asking for a continuance is not unusual," the spokeswoman, Meagan Dorsch, wrote in a Thursday email. "Verizon asked for a continuance to ensure we have an answer to all questions and requests posed by the planning commission. In order to do that, we just need additional time."
The proposed facility would go up on a three-story, flat-roofed building at 305 S. Ridge St. inside the town's highly protected downtown historic district. The building is just over 41 feet tall and houses the town's post office, Breckenridge Market and Liquor, a couple of eateries and a parking garage.
According to Verizon's application, the facility would be largely removed from view on top of the building. A screen made to look like an existing piece of the building would shield the antennas in the few places where they could be seen from the street.
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Additional equipment would be put inside the parking garage, and Verizon says it needs the new facility at this location to relieve an already overloaded cellphone tower on top of The Village on Park Avenue.
"Each cell site proposal is different and how we engineer the network to meet needs is dependent on many factors — proximity to other cell sites, topography, customer demand, local zoning requirements and more," the spokeswoman said responding to a question about whether Verizon had considered other sites.
The proposed facility was slated for a hearing last Tuesday after the commissioners voted 4-3 to continue the discussion at their Jan. 30 meeting, in which a handful of local residents, including Milmoe, blasted the plan.
Before the Tuesday hearing could happen, however, Verizon wrote town staff a letter seeking another continuance. Reached over the phone on Wednesday, Milmoe said he would have rather seen the commissioners kill Verizon's plan altogether, but he believes the most recent delay is a clear signal Verizon doesn't have the support it needs and "wants this time to try to salvage it."
In response, the company spokeswoman maintained that isn't the case.
Meanwhile, Milmoe has been joined in his efforts to stop the new wireless facility from going up by the Summit County Republican Committee, longtime Breckenridge resident Maureen Nichols and a number of others.
They've taken issue with the timing of Verizon's most recent request for a delay and the information that's been put out regarding how the proposal will be handled. Still, the single biggest problem isn't the timing or even the proposed facility's effect on the view, but rather the location and its potential impact on the town.
Nichols has lived in Breckenridge for more than 50 years, and her home sits directly across the street from the proposed site. She readily admitted that she's concerned about potential health effects, which are regulated by the federal government, not local municipalities, both for herself and for the children at Breckenridge Elementary, which is only two blocks away.
Also, Nichols has been a proponent and caretaker for local history over the decades, and she was deeply involved in securing the designation for the Breckenridge Historic District, a push that began in the late 1970s.
Now, she worries about having cellphone towers in the most historic part of town and how the town's efforts to keep these facilities clustered — a move that's really designed to prevent them from popping up all over the place — could lead other companies to piggyback Verizon's proposed tower inside the historic district and locate additional ones there in the future.
"It's not going to stop with Verizon," Nichols said. "We're all pretty positive about that."
She's even circulated a petition against the proposed antennas, which she turned over to the planning commissioners at their meeting last Tuesday. Nichols said she didn't count the number of signatures on the petition but guessed about 300 people signed the document.
Out of all the ones she spoke to, Nichols said, "There wasn't anybody who was for the towers. Not one person."
For Nichols, the next step is to attend this morning's joint coffee talk featuring members of the Board of Summit County Commissioners and elected officials from Breckenridge and Blue River. The coffee talk is set for 8 a.m. at the South Branch Summit County Library, 103 South Harris St.