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New tower to improve cellular service in Ruidoso
[October 05, 2012]

New tower to improve cellular service in Ruidoso

Oct 04, 2012 (Ruidoso News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A conditional use permit was granted Tuesday to T-Mobile to replace an existing tower at 705 Center Street in Ruidoso with a taller model to accommodate multiple users and fill in a cellular service gap.

Declan Murphy with Coal Creek Consulting, agent and consultant for T-Mobile, told members of the village Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday that two towers already operate on the mountain, but after reviewing their structures, he decided neither would be able to handle the company's equipment. Instead, he proposed to replace the smaller 50-foot tower with one 90-feet high and structurally capable of carrying T-Mobile equipment. With the other larger 192-foot high tower nearby creating a visual distraction, little will be needed to disguise the new tower, although landscaping will be included in the project, he said. Neither of the existing towers are camouflaged, he said.

Commissioner Chris Row said if no complaints were being received on a 192-foot tower, a 90-foot structure shouldn't be a problem.

Murphy described his company as one known for lower monthly service rates, whose service would benefit schools and businesses.

Commissioner John Cornelius said several village department heads asked him if there would be room on the new tower for their communication equipment.

Murphy said the village ordinance promotes co-location and with that in mind, company engineers will design a tower structurally capable of serving more than one entity.

Barbara Willard, who lives in the area of the towers, asked for a delay to give a closer look at safety and construction issues, but she was told those were not under the jurisdiction of the board. The tower will have to conform to standards set by the Federal Communications Commission.

"This tower is surrounded by residential homes," Willard said. "The tower that exists there is 280 feet from the corner of my house, pretty close proximity. There was a tower when I moved to the area being used by a radio station. About two years ago, supposedly, it blew down." She was gone for a while and when she returned, another tower was going up and she never received a legal notice, Willard said. Commission Chairman Larry Wimbrow said that was because the tower was a replacement for the damaged structure.

Willard said the radio tower was half the size of the new one that went up, but until a month ago, the tower didn't carry any equipment. The smaller tower, designated for replacement by T-Mobile, has several receivers on it, she said.

"I've watched this evolved," she said. "There's a lot of conditional use going on in a residential area. Safety issues concern me more than anything. I just want to be sure what we're doing is a safe thing for the neighbors. I'd like to do more research on FCC standards." She worried about radioactivity. Wimbrow said cellular towers do not emit radioactivity, although high voltage is involved.

She will need to contact the FCC directly with those concerns, said Building Official Shawn Fort. "That's not something we can consider today," he said. "There are numerous things they will have to comply with to be licensed by the FCC." Row said surely T-Mobile checked out the design and location with the FCC before coming to the commission "or he wouldn't even be considering the site." "I've been through this before and we don't need to jump on these things. My request would be for more time," Willard said.

Murphy pulled out a brochure that covers the usual concerns of neighbors when towers are proposed. Engineering data shows that at full capacity, the tower would emit less than 1 percent of the energy limit the FCC allows, he said. A wireless router and baby monitor emit more energy. "It comes up a lot, because people genuinely are concerned," he said.

Village Councilor Gloria Sayers noted that two village department directors asked on the development review of the project about negotiated space on the tower for fire and police communication equipment. Most municipalities stipulate that before a tower goes up, space and cost are negotiated. "It's free or $1 a month," she said. Negotiations occur in advance, not after a tower is up and the municipality has no chips, Sayers said.

Fort said space will be a condition of approval and determined before a building permit is issued. Village Attorney Zack Cook said if the conditions of approval are not met, the tower could not go up. That motivates company officials to negotiate with the village.

Conditional use decisions are handled by the planning and zoning commission unless a decision is appealed, then the final vote goes to the village council.

___ (c)2012 the Ruidoso News (Ruidoso, N.M.) Visit the Ruidoso News (Ruidoso, N.M.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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