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Cell tower in Peyton recommended for approval

In June, the El Paso County Planning Commission heard a request by Verizon Wireless for a special permit to install a 100-foot-tall monopole commercial mobile radio service telecommunications tower on a hill overlooking the town of Peyton.The planning commission voted unanimously to recommend that the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners approve the permit.Carol Weber, consultant for Verizon and former project manager for the county’s development services department, said the tower will have 15 6-foot-tall panels and a microwave antenna 5 feet in diameter.If the BOCC approves the permit, the tower will be installed on a 36.24-acre parcel on the west side of Peyton Highway.The unoccupied parcel is owned by Long Horn Acres Land & Cattle LLC, which will lease a portion of the parcel to Verizon.”Verizon selected this site to work with the existing and proposed locations meeting the radio frequency requirements and needs within the Verizon network in El Paso County,” Weber said.Because of the initial controversy surrounding the tower, Verizon sent 2,300 postcards to Verizon customers within a five-to-10 mile radius of the tower, asking them if they wanted better coverage and fewer dropped calls, she said.Weber said 312 postcards were returned and all were in favor. She also received 75 e-mail responses, of which 67 supported the tower – five had questions and three were opposed.Verizon held a public meeting concerning the tower in April at Falcon Elementary School after posting a notice in The Ranchland News and sending notifications to some residents. Other than development services department staff and representatives of Verizon Wireless, no one attended the meeting, Weber said.People opposed to the tower said they were not notified of the meeting.Planning Commissioner Robert Plyley asked Weber to address the health questions raised by people living near the proposed tower.Weber said the Telecommunications Act of 1996 “eliminates any discussion on health issues whatsoever.” Any concerns about health issues must be referred to the Federal Communications Commission, she said.Assistant county attorney Cole Emmons clarified Weber’s statement.Telecommunications applications reviewed by the planning commission are regulated under the Telecommunications Act of 1996. “That act, because it is federal legislation, largely preempts local government control,” Emmons said. “If the testimony is … that Verizon does not comply with the commission’s regulations concerning radio frequency emissions, then that testimony would be relevant and could be used as a basis for denial. If it is to any other health effects with regards to radio frequency emissions, that testimony cannot be given any weight.”Emmons said the planning commission could hear testimony from people opposed to the tower – but the testimony needs to be carefully weighed.Jody Heffner, real estate broker in the area, said property values near cell towers drop considerably. Heffner said he has had listings next to and across the street from the cell tower in Calhan.When 35 to 40 percent of people see the tower, they turn around and go in the opposite direction, he said.Heffner said the property next to the cell tower is one of the nicest lots in Calhan but it hasn’t sold, even after lowering the price to $80,000.Heffner also said the presentation about Peyton described the area as more rural. “This is not a rural area,” he said. “This is a developed area that’s going to become more developed. There are several hills they can put a site like this on, where it’s not around all these residences.”Heffner also questioned Verizon Wireless’ decision to hold a public meeting in Falcon rather than Peyton, adding that people would have attended the meeting if they had been notified.”All the people I talk to are opposed to this,” he said.Other Peyton residents are opposed because of radiation issues.Bob Joly lives on a parcel next to the proposed tower and owns another adjacent parcel. He said he’s most concerned about the effects of radiation on kids attending Peyton’s three nearby schools.George Squires also lives near the proposed tower.”I’m a cancer survivor,” Squires said. “My mother and father both passed away from cancer, and I’ve become very sensitive to it.”Although he has a Verizon cell phone, he said he did not receive Verizon’s postcard questionnaire.

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