This story first appeared in THE WATCH Newspaper
TELLURIDE – The San Miguel County Commissioners approved a six-month extension of an emergency moratorium on development of new telecommunication towers. The moratorium halts the development of new telecommunication towers that are 35-feet in height or taller and related facilities proposed to be located in any and all zone districts, except the county’s West End Zone District. The six-month extension will expire on July 17.
The purpose of the moratorium is to provide time to amend the San Miguel County Land Use Code in order to develop and update code provisions that deal with the installation of new cellular towers their related facilities.
The enactment of the moratorium comes after the commissioners, in a call-up hearing, approved a special use permit application for Mercury Tower to construct a 195-foot, self-supporting cellular tower on the Weaver Property just north of the Norwood Schools. Despite the approval, the commissioners concluded that the county lacked the process, rules and standards to ensure the tower will be consistent with the purpose of the Land Use Code.
“It was kind of a disaster,” Commissioner Art Goodtimes said in an interview following the approval of the moratorium’s extension. “It was an awkward situation, and it made the citizens fight with each other over it. We ended up going with it even though I wasn’t happy about it. It wasn’t the right spot and our regulations are deficient in siting. They picked the site, examined it and brought it to us as a take it or leave it.”
The moratorium, as described by the resolution enacting it, will afford the county the opportunity to amend the standards for towers to “protect the county’s environmental resources and to minimize adverse impacts on visual resources, including compliance with scenic quality standards, to ensure that telecommunications facilities are compatible with adjacent or neighboring land uses, and to minimize the number of towers by encouraging the joint use (co-location) of facilities…”
If the commissioners are able to adopt LUC amendments pertaining to telecommunication towers before the July 17 expiration date of the temporary moratorium, it will automatically be lifted upon the commissioners final approval of those amendments.