City adopts wireless master plan

The Grand Junction City Council adopted a wireless master plan on Wednesday night that aligns with residents’ wishes to encourage more wireless coverage with the least amount of visual impact from cell towers.

The plan encourages carriers to attempt to co-locate services on existing towers. It also encourages carriers to construct structures that conceal the unattractive nature of towers.

According to a study conducted by the city and its consultant, CityScape, 11 to 18 towers are needed in Grand Junction’s Persigo 201 boundary area in the next 10 to 15 years. Countywide, five to eight co-located towers are needed per year for 10 years. As many as 40 new towers may be needed within the 10 to 15 years, to provide seamless wireless coverage.

The master plan outlines public sites, and will accept privately owned sites on a priority list that may not need a public hearing if a carrier decided to locate a tower there. The city can implement conditions to minimize the visual impacts of towers, encourage companies to co-locate utilities and encourage companies to allow 911 emergency infrastructure, Grand Junction city staff members said.

Councilors unanimously passed the measure, 5-0. Councilors Rick Taggart and Barbara Traylor Smith were absent.

“It’s really significant that this is part of our comprehensive plan,” Councilor Bennett Boeschenstein said.

A couple of councilors were more torn on how to proceed with a companion zoning ordinance question to the wireless master plan. Councilor Marty Chazen supported a version of a change to the code that did not give preference to carriers who opted to locate on city-owned land. The Grand Junction Planning Commission supported this version, while city staff members recommended a version that gives preference to carriers that choose to locate on city properties. “To me, this erects a barrier to the free-market system,” Chazen said.

Chazen said the result could give private landowners an unfair advantage by having to compete with the city. Carriers negotiate lease terms and payments with landowners.

Councilors Duncan McArthur said he could see both sides of the issue. He said he understands that the city would like to maintain as much control of tower construction as possible to reduce the possible negative effects to residents.

He said the possibility exists that private landowners may be denied revenue, but he considered it an “unintended consequence” of the zoning change.

Jim Finlayson, information technology director for Grand Junction, said carrier companies aren’t looking at whether a piece of property is public or private.

Councilors amended the zoning for future towers by giving preference to city properties by a 4-1 vote. Chazen cast the dissenting vote.

In other news, councilors:

■ Approved by a 5-0 vote a 
$1 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to make repairs to the Hallenback No. 1 Dam, commonly called Purdy Mesa. The loan will be repaid in 20 years with a 2.65 interest rate and includes a $10,000 initiation fee.

■ Approved by a 5-0 vote outdoor dining options for two restaurants at Barons, 539 Colorado Ave. and Las Marias, 118. S. Seventh St.

■ Approved by a 5-0 vote to include four properties into the boundaries of the Downtown Development Authority. The addresses include 735, 737 and 749 South Avenue, and 821 First Ave.


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