Wireless tower plans toppled

David Talbott is one of many Palisade residents who opposed the placement of a communications tower on property owned by Scott and Theresa High on East Orchard Mesa. The 120-foot tower would have been visible from the town. Theresa High announced Friday that her family pulled their application for the tower proposal, citing citizen opposition to the plan.

A pair of East Orchard Mesa property owners who were planning to host a 12-story communications tower on their vineyard property on a bluff over the town abandoned the effort in the midst of growing opposition.

Winemaker Theresa High of Colterris Winery said she had wanted to help boost spotty internet service for the town of Palisade and residents of East Orchard Mesa by allowing Adaptive Communications, LLC, to place a 120-foot tower on a parcel of the family's land overlooking the Colorado River and town. The proposal received the nod of recommendation from the Mesa County Planning Commission last month and was slated to go before Mesa County Commissioners for a final vote later this month.

Instead, the item will be withdrawn from the commissioners' July 24 meeting agenda.

The location of the proposed tower — within view of Palisade's Riverbend Park, which hosts a number of the town's popular festivals and is deep in the often-photographed lush orchards and vineyards — prompted opposition from the town board and Palisade's chamber of commerce.

It also drew the ire of a number of residents.

Theresa High said Adaptive Communications approached her, her husband, Scott, and their family about placing a tower on their land. Company officials told them the proposed tower location at 3728 F 1/4 Road would be the best area to provide coverage for the town, relieving the company from having to install several towers to cover the same area.

The proposed bluff location next to the Tilman Bishop State Wildlife Area also interfered the least with the Highs' vineyard and peach orchard operations, Theresa High said.

"We were taking on the biggest sacrifice," she said of allowing the company a site to place a tower. "We wanted to help the town."

The Highs said in an email to Adaptive Communications owner Tracy Harmer they did not want to proceed with the tower placement because of the controversy.

"We live here, too. We want everyone to be happy," Theresa High said by phone Friday. "We're not here to cause a problem. We never got into this to start a fight."

Adaptive Communications is part of the Colorado Rural Jump Start program and receives financial incentives for providing economic development.

The company recently placed towers in north Grand Junction and is in the process of placing towers in Clifton and Fruita in an attempt to provide broadband coverage to much of the Grand Valley.

This is the second Palisade location to fall through after a recent proposal to place a 120-foot tower near Red Fox Cellars, 695 36 Road, was pulled by the property owner after community members opposed it.

It's not the technology Palisade residents oppose, but the placement of towers within the area's prime agricultural land, said Juliann Adams, executive director of the Palisade Chamber of Commerce.

"We have businesses that depend on Riverbend Park, Peach Fest, Winefest business. Can you imagine people trying to enjoy that vista with the tower overpowering them?" she said.

Adams said the chamber wants to work with Adaptive Communications to find potential sites to locate towers that don't disrupt the million-dollar views and the unspoiled fruit-growing region Palisade officials have worked hard to curate over the years.

That might mean installing several shorter towers around town or placing tall towers further into Palisade's surrounding hills, Adams said.

"We're limited in geography," she said. "We don't have industrial. We understand that we have to be progressive but at the same time have to preserve that agritourism."

Mesa County Lead Planner Kaye Simonson said out of a slate of recent communication tower proposals and projects, the proposal for a tower on the Highs' property was by far the most controversial, receiving 30 letters in opposition as of Thursday.

None of the county's other tower proposals or projects from any applicant has received opposition. In fact, some people — especially in the Glade Park area — call the county asking if a communication company can locate a tower on their land, welcoming the chance at better internet and cellphone coverage.

"The story becomes if not here, then where?" Simonson said of the now-scrapped plan for the Highs' property. "If you put (the towers) out of sight, they're not going to work."

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