Cell towers, a much-needed eye sore

Image by Tower Engineering Professionals, Inc. Proposed cell tower on top of Roscoe hill is debated by county officials.

The road to Luther/Roscoe is an open, beautiful vista with big skies, rolling hills and the Beartooths in plain sight. But how would it look if a cell tower was erected in the foreground? As telecommunication companies continue to provide better and faster service, many local municipalities, including Carbon County, continue to address these issues of public service needs and aesthetics. At a commissioners meeting Dec. 19, telecommunications representatives and county officials considered the appeal proposal of Mercury Towers and Tower Engineering Professionals, Inc. to build a self-supported monopole cell tower off Hwy 78. Recently, the Carbon County Planning Office denied the company a permit application to build a cell tower for AT&T atop of the Roscoe hill, on the mountainside of Hwy 78 due to the potential for unmitigated impacts to the community. In a letter to the company, the Planning Office wrote, “...it is determined the proposed tower would create extensive visual obstructions to the view shed in an area where considerable long-term efforts have been made by the public to conserve the view shed as a natural and cultural resource…” In an effort to appeal the denial, Aaron Gunn of Mercury Towers spoke before the commissioners, stating that under the Telecommunication Act of 1996, aesthetics are not legal grounds for denial. “You can’t deny it because it doesn’t look good,” said Gunn who stated that according to local zoning ordinances, the area assessed was not a designated view shed at the time. Willing to work with the company, Carbon County Commissioner John Prinkki examined the health and safety needs for cell service in that valley, but also questioned the location. “We don’t want to outright deny you because there is a need for cell service, but I’m not excited to have it right off the shoulder of Hwy 78,” Prinkki said at the meeting. County officials further discussed the possibilities of moving the tower to the other side of the street or to a more hidden location, but Gunn said the location is not so easily compromised. Because the proposed cell site has already completed the necessary assessments and the landowner has agreed to the site, to choose a different location could be both timely and unlikely. Gunn explained that moving the site more than 30 ft. would require his company to perform all new assessments, leading to the potential for AT&T to terminate the contract. However, to make the tower less visible, Gunn proposed to shorten the tower to 160 ft. and paint it powder blue to help blend it into the landscape. Landowners in the area also see the benefit of having service in their area, but the general consensus is that the tower should not block views. “A lot of people don’t want it in their backyard, but everyone in the area wants cell service,” Gunn noted. At the meeting, one concerned citizen of Luther said that during elections, it is required by law to have cell service, which is currently unavailable or unreliable. So in the past, they have relied on hand-held radio transmitters, but the feedback from other channels have been problematic. With the information on the table, the county commissioners decided to review the details further and meet again for a potential decision at the next public meeting, Dec. 30.