80-ft. cellphone tower planned for Village Rd.
By Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
December 14, 2012
Teton County planning commissioners have approved plans for what could be an 80-foot-tall cellphone tower behind the Teton Pines fire station.
Commissioners signed off on the pole with a 4-1 vote during a meeting Monday. They recommended county commissioners approve plans for the pole, which requires special permission to be taller than the 30-foot height limit normally set for similar structures in that part of the valley.
Planning commissioner Mark Newcomb cast the one opposing vote, saying he wanted to see more analysis about AT&T’s project and its potential impact.
The cellphone provider plans to build an 80-foot pole near a stand of trees on the southwest corner of the fire station property, which is owned by Teton County.
The board members’ recommendation left open questions about some of the main aspects of the project, which is supposed to improve cellphone coverage along the road to Teton Village.
They didn’t decide whether the pole should be designed to look like a pine tree or whether it should simply be a single, earth-colored, non-reflective pole. That decision will be left up to county commissioners.
An AT&T representative said the tower has to be at least 80 feet tall to cover Highway 390. If another company wanted to put equipment on the tower, they’d have to do so below AT&T’s equipment, which could create coverage problems and force a competitor to look for another place to put a tower.
If county leaders choose to camouflage the pole as a tree, the structure will be 90 feet tall, because the disguise would require extra height.
The fire station’s existing antenna is about 40 feet tall.
Teton Pines resident Alan Henderson opposed the plans. He took pictures of the site from his house and passed the photos to commissioners. Henderson said the proposed tower doesn’t fit in with its surroundings.
“An undisguised cellphone tower sticking 40 feet above the rest of the vegetation is not compatible,” he said.
But members of the Teton Pines Homeowners’ Association sent an email in support of the tower.
“Some Teton Pines residents may view the taller pole as a moderate blot on the landscape, but it will be visible only from the south end of Teton Pines during the winter months when the surrounding trees lack foliage,” said Association Chairman Frank Christen-sen, “and the directors concluded that its aesthetic shortcomings will be more than offset by the improved cellular reception that it will provide.”
AT&T’s Jared White said the company has done everything it could to minimize the impact. AT&T conducted extensive tests, and studied other locations and lower heights.
Other potential sites, including the Stilson Ranch parking lot, Q Roadhouse and the Teton Science School, were not feasible and would have required a taller tower, he said.
The company is willing to include other aesthetic features to hide the pole.
“If people want coverage everywhere and they want 30 megabyte downloads, these are things we have to do,” White said.