Colorado DTV Tower
looking to consolidate Lookout Mountain transmission
sites meet resistance from City of Golden.
A plan to build a
730-foot digital TV "supertower" on Lookout Mountain west
of Denver has been put on hold by a district court judge.
The Lake Cedar Group (LCG) consortium behind the new
four-station DTV transmission facility must once again
face public hearings in August.
The lawsuit against the Jefferson County commissioners
and LCG was filed by a Lookout Mountain community
organization and fronted by the City of Golden, situated
directly below the mountain. Jeffco District Judge R.
Brooke Jackson ruled March 26 that county commissioners
must hold new public hearings on the DTV proposal because
LCG filed significant documents about the project too
late for adequate responses by opponents. The first
hearing is slated for Aug. 12.
Lake Cedar Group represents the efforts of four
Denver-area stations-KCNC Ch. 4 (CBS), KMGH Ch. 7 (ABC),
KUSA Ch. 9 (NBC), and KTVD Ch. 20 (UPN)-to build one
digital transmission tower to replace their four existing
analog towers on the mountain. LCG's proposal included
constructing an innovative facility to house the
co-located transmission gear of all four stations.
At the core of the lawsuit is a challenge to the
county's rezoning of the site to permit the new
construction. Residents questioned the potential dangers
of guy wires whip-lashing out like fly-fishing line if
the tower collapsed, from falling ice during Colorado
winters, and the potentially harmful health effects of
non-ionizing radiation from the tower's high-power
"We prepared and submitted nine documents over a
month-and-a-half during the hearing process in response
to questions and concerns by the commissioners and county
citizens," said LCG representative Marv Rockford, a
partner in Rockford Gray, a public relations firm
Rockford helped found after leaving the job of general
manager at KCNC in August 2002.
"Judge Jackson ruled that the process did not give
opponents adequate time to review the documents and
respond to our submissions before the county made a
decision," Rockford said. "We believe that we followed
commonly accepted practices for any public hearings, but
we understand his point, and we're happy to have an
opportunity at another hearing to make sure everybody has
had adequate time to review our submissions. We want to
make sure that we are clearly understood."
Tim Cox, assistant Jefferson County attorney said that
rezoning regulations prohibit the introduction of
substantial changes to a project less than 21 days before
a public hearing.
"There were 17 sets of documents submitted by Lake
Cedar Group in response to direct inquiries," he said.
"The court found that some of the information submitted
less than 21 days before the final hearing last August
did constitute substantial changes to the proposal, so
there needs to be an opportunity for public comment."
Cox stressed that the legal issue is "the timing of
the documents, not the subject of the documents."
However, he said, Judge Jackson also ruled that before
the rezoning could be upheld, LCG had to submit more
detailed information about the risk of falling ice and
tower failure damage outside the tower's 730-foot
According to Timothy Carl, acting Jefferson County
planning director, the Group's facility site development
plan was within "a couple weeks" of final approval before
the district court blocked them from issuing a
Before transferring to his new job in early June, Carl
was in charge of the county's zoning approval process.
With direct responsibility for granting a permit for
construction of all telecommunication towers in the
county, he was intimately familiar with the LCG tower
Carl did not ascribe much validity to community
opponents' concerns about the LCG tower falling sideways
outside of the prescribed radius, or snapped guy wires
lashing out beyond the property boundaries.
"The old KOA-TV tower fell sidewise when being erected
back in the 1950s," he said, but that was while the guy
wires were being attached.
He did not know of any tower built recently that has
failed the way the opponents describe.
"Towers today are erected with more safety, and they
are designed to collapse straight down under their own
weight," he said.
Potential dangers from a tower collapse still bother
Deb Carney, attorney for Canyon Area Residents for the
Environment (C.A.R.E.), the Lookout Mountain coalition of
homeowners who have vowed to stop the construction. She
referred to research from C.A.R.E. member and consulting
engineer Bob Barrett, who cited a March 1999 tower
collapse report, submitted to Carl on behalf of Kline
Towers, which designed the initial candelabra-topped mast
that was voted down by the county that year.
"Two of those collapses were atypical," said Barrett.
"The towers did not just 'collapse' upon themselves, but
sections of the towers were blown horizontally at least
as far as they were high. Both occurred during very
strong wind events, I believe. These were the WTAT-TV
collapse in South Carolina in 1989 and the WEJV-TV
collapse in Indiana in 1988. The cables in the WTAT
collapse, when two guys broke, extended greater than 100
percent of the tower height away from the tower
Carney said that C.A.R.E. mostly is concerned about
tower radiation. Since 2001, researchers from Colorado
State University and the University of Washington in
Seattle have been conducting regular health screenings of
300 Lookout Mountain residents. The study will show
whether there is an elevated rate of cancers among people
living near the tower farm. She said the study finding
will be released in May 2005.
If the county grants a construction permit this
summer, she said, "We'll go to court to defer the
decision until the findings are known. The residents are
determined to prevent this any way we can within the
bounds of the law."
The C.A.R.E. assertions where challenged by Don Doty,
president of Stainless Inc., an international broadcast
tower erection company headquartered in North Wales, Pa.
Stainless erected five local towers, including the 1955
tower for KOA-TV, the station that later became KCNC-TV,
but Stainless has no involvement in the Lake Cedar
"Out of the 7,500 towers we've installed since
Stainless went into business back in 1947, if ten percent
of them failed, that would mean 700 tower collapses," he
said. "If that was the case, you can bet that our
insurance rates would put us out of business. In fact,
our records indicate that less four-tenths of one percent
of our towers have failed since 1947."
Doty also said that winds would not tend to scatter
debris or ice fall much beyond the radius either.
"Imagine throwing a 16 pound bowling ball from a rooftop.
Even in a high wind, a big chunk of ice is not going to
go very far. And any pieces of ice light enough to fly
outside the radius will be too small to do any
As for guy wires lashing out like fly fishing line
beyond the tower radius, he concedes this is
theoretically possible, "but I cannot recall a case of
Regarding RF radiation, Doty said that studies by the
FCC, OSHA and the U.S. Navy assure him about the safety
of the antennas he builds.
"The public exposure is hundreds of wavelengths away
from the source. Some may claim the federal standards are
too high, but I'm convinced that if anything, OSHA has
erred on the side of caution," he said.
Another observer of the Lookout Mountain controversy
is Jerry Agliata, executive director of the National
"The tower opponents are very tenacious, and you have
to admire them for that, but they just don't have science
on their side," he said.
Golden city manager Michael Bestor disagrees.
"The television industry is looking for the lowest
cost for tower construction without due consideration for
the potential health impact or property damage for people
living near their towers. The city of Golden won the
lawsuit we filed because of the legal issues we raised
about the way the county commission erred in the approval
process," Bestor said.
Pending a county decision, meanwhile, the four Lake
Cedar Group stations have postponed ordering equipment
for the project. One engineer in the group said that
transmission lines for the main facility have been
purchased and delivered, but that's all so far. That
transmission line is sitting on pallets in a warehouse.