The issue of whether or not to approve the location of a new tower near the Log Hill Mesa escarpment is not a new one. In fact, the actual decision-making process and public hearings on this matter took place more than two years ago. In September 2008 the Board of County Commissioners of Ouray County approved, with conditions, a Special Use Permit application for Dallas Creek Water Company for the construction of an 80 foot communication tower and an associated equipment shelter. The tower is intended for the use of Ouray County emergency services providers for their VHF equipment, the State of Colorado’s 800 MHz digital trunked radio system and for Verizon Wireless. The decision of the Board was made only after hearing testimony from the public – both pro and con – about the tower, its impact and purpose. The issue of ‘visual impact’ was a prominent part of those public hearings, and the testimony that the Board heard and considered as a part of its process. As a result of the testimony and concerns expressed during the public hearing process, changes were made to the tower design to mitigate visual impact concerns. Ultimately within the confines of the Land Use Code the Board determined that the health, safety and welfare of the County and its residents merited an approval of this project.
Subsequent to the 2008 approval, the board also conducted additional public hearings to address specific appeals stemming from the original approval at the conclusion of the hearings, and again after hearing testimony on both sides of the issue, the Board unanimously granted the variances. The Board found, in part, that: “the health, safety and welfare of the residents and visitors of Ouray County is paramount and that Applicant has complied with the purpose and intent of Section 9 and . . . granting this variance does not substantially undermine the public good and does not impair the intent and purpose of the code.”
In the more than two years since the approvals, the actions of the Board and the construction of the tower were challenged in Court by a single Plaintiff in various filings and hearings. The decisions of the Board of County Commissioners in approving the tower and granting the variances have been upheld in every instance by Judge J. Steven Patrick, District Court Judge. Judge Patrick has confirmed in various rulings that the approval of the tower by the Board was not in error. Specifically, the Court found that: “There is no abuse of discretion in the Board’s decision and the Board did not exceed its jurisdiction and its legal conclusions were supported by a reasonable basis.”
There has been a lot of inflammatory discussion from opponents of the tower about reductions in property values; the evidence is quite to the contrary. Despite the existence of three communications towers already on the escarpment, property values have generally remained consistently high in the Loghill Village Unit 1 subdivision. Likewise there has been discussion about protecting the views from parcels of property within the Loghill Village Unit 1 subdivision. It is important to note that “neighbor to neighbor” views are not protected by Section 9 (Visual Impact Regulations) of the Ouray County Land Use Code. Visual impact has been a hot topic in the last year and the Board would encourage all citizens who have an interest or concern about visual impact regulations to become involved in the process underway to review and perhaps modify the existing regulations.
In closing, the Board extends its appreciation to all of the citizens who participated in the processes regarding the tower approval over the previous two plus years. While clearly this issue is an emotional one for those on both sides of the discussion, it is not an issue that is up for further County process or discussion. The public hearing process that occurred more than two years ago provided ample time for public input, and the appeals process has taken the entire topic through the court system and has ultimately supported the Board’s decision. We are confidant that our decision was correct and made in accordance with the Ouray County Land Use Code. The Board appreciates that a decision such as this one will never make all of the people happy, however, it is important to remember that the required procedures were followed in every instance and the Board’s decisions have been affirmed by the Chief Judge of this judicial district.
In an effort to address the widespread misinformation that has been and is being circulated amongst the public, the Board encourages interested persons to avail themselves of the minutes and transcriptions of the various public hearings in order to better understand the thorough process that occurred. Citizens are encouraged to attend any Board meeting at 9:00 am for the “Call to the Public” to seek additional information on this or any issue.