After nearly a year of research and strategic planning, Aspen City Council on Tuesday announced their approval of small cell tower design guidelines. The approval comes ahead of the wave of 5G telecom applications the city anticipates in the coming year.
The Aspen Daily News reported that a team dedicated to the initiative worked effortlessly to ensure the new city guidelines adhered to federal infrastructure requirements while also preserving the city’s character.
Ben Anderson, a principal planner with the city’s community development department, told the Aspen Daily News “the guidelines are water-tight,” referencing adherence to federal restrictions. “We spent a lot of time and money and blood, sweat and tears making those things happen,” he said. “So, whether it’s the height, or some of these other aesthetic concerns that we’ve built into these design guidelines, staff is feeling like they have a pretty good basis for holding on to these things.”
The new guidelines establish protocol for replacing Aspen’s existing streetlamps with new 25-foot towers that will match the size and color of surrounding light fixtures. According to its website, the city hired a third-party vendor to build the towers and rent space to telecommunications companies. The expectation is that one out of every five streetlamps in town could be replaced by a new cell tower, or about one per block.
Anderson told council members that talks with carriers during planning sessions indicate they will comply with the design guidelines and the third-party hosting strategy.
Public safety concerns about harmful radio waves, however, also posed challenges for the planning team. In a recent statement, Mayor Torre acknowledged residents submitted comments during a public hearing, citing concerns about 5G’s potential health risks. The new guidelines address these concerns by requiring each new cell installation or upgrade be tested, at the cost of the infrastructure provider, and an EME report must be provided to the city.
“I think this is one of the topics that we are going to get some pushback from,” Anderson said. “We are not trying to throw up bureaucratic obstacles at these facilities. We do feel that this is very important information for our community to have about these facilities that are being installed in our town.”
In a formal comment to the council, Verizon opposed the testing requirement, but Anderson said he believes the city’s policy would hold up in accordance with FCC laws.
The City of Aspen website has a page dedicated to small cell infrastructure including an explanatory video. Click here to view.