Eagle County approves new cell tower to improve Wolcott-area service | VailDaily.com

Eagle County approves new cell tower to improve Wolcott-area service

WOLCOTT — The Wolcott hole in cell coverage will soon be bridged, for Verizon customers at least.

Last week the Eagle County Commissioners unanimously approved Verizon's proposal to build a new 85-foot monopine — a cell phone tower that looks like a pine tree — on a hillside east of Eagle. The new tower will improve the limited service in the Wolcott area. The site is on property owned by Red Mountain Ranch Partnership.

The tower will be powered by a diesel generator and enclosed with a chain link fence. Construction of the tower is expected to begin in the late spring.

"Their plan is to start construction as soon as the snow will allow them to," said Eagle County planner Kris Valdez.

But there will be a slight delay. The cell tower approval includes a condition proposed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife that prohibits construction activities at the site between Dec. 1 and April 15 to minimize impact to wintering wildlife in the area.

Coverage and Capacity

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According to Meagan Dorsch, a spokesperson for Verizon, the new cell tower will improve both coverage and capacity in the area.

"We heard the requests for improved service in the community and along (Interstate 70) as a whole," Dorsch said.

She noted that most people understand the idea of coverage but the need for increased capacity is equally important. As an analogy, she pointed to I-70 itself. She said the cell tower's capacity improvements would be equivalent to adding more lanes to the interstate, rather than increasing the speed limits along the highway.

"People are using a whole lot more data these days," Dorsch said. She noted the association that represents all wireless carriers in the county estimates 10 trillion megabytes of data will be used this year. That's equivalent to downloading 15 million Netflix movies every day.

"We are just trying to meet that demand," Dorsch said.

Special use

The cell tower construction required a special use permit from the county, but in their analysis of the proposal, county staff determined that the application conformed with all of the standards to allow construction.

"We are excited to see service in under-served areas," Valdez said.

In their approval of the application, along with the wintering wildlife restriction, the county commissioners placed a condition on the permit requiring Verizon to provide necessary documentation to the Federal Aviation Administration to determine if any height restrictions and/or lighting would be required for the tower. Additionally, the county stipulated that, to the greatest extent practical, the tower construction would comply with the "recommended best practices for communication tower design, siting, construction, operation maintenance and decommissions from the Division of Migratory Bird Management for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service."

Dorsch said the county approval is just one regulatory process the company has to complete before it can build the tower. Verizon will also need state and federal approval before it can proceed with construction. Once all the permits have been issues, Dorsch said construction of the tower will take approximately 90 days.