Gavel and Colorado Flag (copy)

A federal judge recently ruled in favor of a communications tower that the Colorado Springs City Council rejected in 2019.

A long battle over a cellular communications tower on the eastern side of town may have come to a close this week after the Colorado Springs City Council approved plans to update it following a ruling by a federal judge.

The city council turned down plans from Vertical Bridge to put new antennas on the 99 foot tower near Maizeland Road and Murray Boulevard, after hearing from residents who argued the company should not have the right to update the tower because it hadn't been used since 2013 and city code required that it should have been torn down a year after abandonment, among other other concerns. 

The company sued the city to overturn the decision and won in September when a federal judge sided with the company and said if the city did not allow the project to go forward it would be a violation of federal law. 

"The court finds that the proposed modifications would not conflict with any prior approval," Judge William Martinez wrote in his decision. 

City Attorney Ben Bolinger said the city decided not to appeal the decision before bringing it back to city council because the city did not see any grounds for appeal. The city came to an agreement with the company that it would not appeal the decision in exchange for Vertical Bridge not seeking to recover its court costs. 

The Colorado Springs City Council approved tower project on a 5 to 4 vote with council members Dave Donelson, Nancy Henjum, Bill Murray and Mike O'Malley voting against the project despite the court order. 

"The city was remiss in addressing this issue," Henjum said. 

Resident Sally Maddocks who led the fight against the tower in 2019 pointed out to the council this week that the court sided with the Vertical Bridge because the city did not prove that it had not approved the tower's current height of 99 feet. 

"How does anyone present evidence of something that did not happen?" she said, in a written version of her comments to city council 

The city did submit evidence that in 2006 the city capped the towers' height at 50 feet.

"There is nothing about this ruling that is rational," she said. 

She also called out the city for not including her in the lawsuit, which could have allowed her to appeal on her own. 

Maddocks said she has asked the council via email to reconsider their vote and is exploring other options to fight the tower. But she had not decided on her next step on Friday. 

Her main concerns are related to the health effects of high powered radiofrequency radiation since her home where she lives with her husband and three young children is 74 feet from the tower. A new 99 foot communications tower going in near homes would have to be setback 495 feet under city code. 

Contact the writer at mary.shinn@gazette.com or (719) 429-9264.

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