Side Streets: Antenna towers divide Broadmoor residents tired of asking 'Can you hear me now?'

By Bill Vogrin Updated: December 13, 2013 at 5:15 pm • Published: December 13, 2013 | 8:45 am 0

Dozens of antenna towers are popping up across the Broadmoor area to provide wireless service for Internet, cellphone and data transmissions, leaving neighbors sharply divided over the project.

Some, like Sara Lynn Thomas, are thrilled to think they may finally get reliable cellphone service after being frustrated for years by dropped calls and weak signals.

"I moved here in 1999," Thomas said, standing beside a new tower being installed on the edge of her front yard. "The cellphone service here is just terrible. I have to go three blocks to get a signal. I'm excited about it. I can't wait.

"I'm a real estate agent and I work out of my home and my cellphone is my lifeline."

Others, like Amy Tracy, are upset that Houston-based Crown Castle International won approval and is installing lights and towers.

"We saw them working, digging a hole, and asked what was going on," Tracy said. "They said it was a cell tower installation.

"We told them it was private property. But they said they had approval from the city."

The Tracys and their neighbors began investigating and learned it was an antenna tower and part of the larger project.

They called Colorado Springs Utilities, City Planning, Traffic Engineering, City Council President Keith King and Mayor Steve Bach's office to try to stop the streetlight/antenna tower from proceeding on park property.

"We bought this house three years ago for the view," Tracy said, pointing to the panorama her family enjoys of the park with a snow-covered mountain backdrop. The chimes of the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun gently rang as she spoke.

"That tower and streetlight are going to destroy our million-dollar view," she said. "We'd have never bought this house if we had to look at a cell tower."

The Marland neighbors are particularly frustrated the light and tower were approved without any apparent neighborhood input.

"They claim they invited us to a public meeting in August 2012," Tracy said. "They say only one neighbor showed up. If they had told us, everyone would have been there."

So I made a few calls to the city and got the same response as Tracy and her neighbors.

Peter Wysocki, director of planning, said his office gave Crown Castle administrative approval for a revocable permit to allow the lights and towers because it met all the city's criteria for "stealth" because they are being erected on existing streetlight poles or on new light poles and in city right-of-way.

Here's where it gets tricky. Wysocki said the new tower at the park was approved because it met the stealth requirement because it is being camouflaged as a streetlight.

"But we don't decide where streetlights are installed," Wysocki said. "That's either Colorado Springs Utilities or the street department. I don't know who decides whether lights should be installed in a location."

So I called Steve Berry at Springs Utilities, and he said his folks install lights where they are told.

"The locations of street lights are determined by the city," Berry said. "We don't determine where they go."

So I called Kathleen Kraeger, city traffic engineer, hoping she could help.

"My only participation in this project was when they asked if I wanted the streetlight on the park turned on or left off," she said. "I requested they turn the streetlights on. I don't want a dark streetlight that people are reporting as broken all the time."

Maybe you can see why neighbors are frustrated.

I called Crown Castle's government relations manager on the project but she didn't return my calls.

So it remains a mystery how a Texas utility company got approval for a streetlight on a road that doesn't have any nearby and without permission from the homeowners association that owns the park or the neighbors who must look at it.

The Tracys and other concerned neighbors have hired an attorney to sort everything out. It will be interesting to see who gave approval and whether the streetlight ultimately gets installed.

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Read my blog updates at blogs.gazette.com/sidestreets.

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