Antenna Towers on Lookout Mountain Summation
During World War II and the Cold War, the 1940s and 50s, Americans trusted their government officials to “do the right thing.” The non-ionizing radiation pollution of over-the-air radio frequencies from antenna towers was not made public by the military and the radio and television broadcast industries appreciated that secrecy.
Plats for summer cabins were recorded for Lookout Mountain in the 1920s and zoned “residential” in the early 1950s. There were 243 homes there when Jefferson County Commissioners permitted (without public hearings) four Denver broadcast stations to mount their antenna towers on residential-zoned lots in 1953-56. Many high altitude sites “at the edge of town” were considered, but Lookout offered the best transportation up the Lariat Trail and U.S. Hwy 40. Innocent citizens assumed the antennas were harmless and applauded the launch of analog television.
The community culture of Lookout Mountain is respectful of each individual homeowner’s choice. Massive “trophy” homes are built next to historic log cabins. Boats and trailer-homes are visible on large lots of wild flora. This permissive value allowed a gradual increase of antennas and towers until a few residents began to question the proliferation in the 1980s. It took seven years for the county commissioners to respond with a “Telecommunications Land Use Plan” by 1993.
Citizens questioned permitting antennas in the “Mountain Backdrop” preserved by JeffCo Open Space for $52 million. They discovered JeffCo knew little about the 40-year proliferation of polluting devices. Citizens became suspicious of county corruption when JeffCo gained use of the Fox-31 media tower permitted in 1983 for $1 per year on land below the 5-acre requirement. In 1987, citizens formed a non-profit community consortium of 30 neighborhoods, Canyon Area Residents for the Environment (CARE), to manage this and other local issues.
A few citizens studied the national legislation written by the broadcast, wireless and electronics industries to enable the digital era approved by Congress in 1996. Plans for a digital “supertower” for four Denver television stations, legally known as “Lake Cedar Group, LLC,” were announced in 1998. Lookout resident attorneys, physicians and electrical engineers began measuring the area and reported radiation exceeding federal limits. After the FCC measured the area, some “broadcast clients” were ordered to turn their power down without threat of license removal.
Citizens visited the FCC in Washington D.C. and discovered 20 high-power broadcast antennas were among more than 1,200 polluting radio frequency devices, mostly without JeffCo permits, operating on 48 towers standing on 14 residential-zoned Lookout parcels without any FCC radiation measurement or industry accountability. Tower owners were paying $31,504 property taxes surrounded by residents paying more than $2 million within a one-mile radius.
The citizens had assumed the corporate industry responsible for news and information would protect their health, safety and welfare. They discovered that television broadcast stations have unconditional support of politicians, newspapers, and authorities like State Historic Preservation Officer Georgiana Contiguglia who ignored the Historic Preservation Act and declared the additional pollution would cause no problems for historic Buffalo Bill’s Grave, the Pahaska Lodge, Boettcher Mansion and Scenic and Historic Lariat Trail.
Residents gained support from a national network of citizen organizations, European news media, and several world renowned authorities like radiation specialist Dr. Neil Cherry of New Zealand, New York author of Electromagnetic Fields Blake Levitt and bioengineer scientist Dr. Henry Lai from University of Washington. Some local authorities who testified at hearings against the Supertower were Colorado School of Mines professor Dr. Gary Olhoeft, Golden geophysics business owner Bob Crowder, PTA representatives (former Channel 4 reporter) Karen Layton Barker, Molly Balmes, Roberta Bolton, and Marie Fulinwider, CSU epidemiologist Dr. John Reif, engineer Bob Barrett, real estate appraisers Ron Selstad and Basil Katsaros, economist Dr. Roger Hutchinson, Denver attorney Bruce Deboskey, attorney Don D’Antuono, electrical engineers Al Hislop and Dr. Ron Larson, telecom industry consultant Lester Larsen, 40-year federal radiation regulator Dr. Roger Mattson, ophthalmologist Dr. George Pardos, and seven more Medical Doctors. The JeffCo Board of Education was opposed to more electrosmog pollution of schools nearby.
Investigation into alternative sites indicated that Lookout is the least effective site to cover the metro area from a relatively low altitude of 7,000 feet with signals blocked by Mt. Morrison and North and South Table Mountains and directly polluting more than 500 homes south and west above the tower base. As many as 50,000 homes with a 5-mile radius experience RF interference. Antennas operating from Squaw Mountain at 10,800 feet, Eldorado Mountain at 8,320 feet and Mt. Morrison at 8,000 feet provide superior coverage of the metro area and are not surrounded by families at the same altitude as antennas.
Lookout, Genesee and Golden citizens sponsored many events for eight years, from 1998 through 2006, to raise more than $350,000 to pay for office supplies, information, travel and attorney Deb Carney. Hundreds of citizens participated in four peaceful demonstrations at the Taj Mahal. There was no corporate media coverage of these demonstrations, testimony or research provided by qualified citizens except for small spaces in the local weeklies. On July 13, 1999, JeffCo Commissioners denied the Supertower.
Lake Cedar Group filed litigation to overturn the denial and demanded that the FCC preempt local land use control. The Colorado Legislature adopted a Joint Resolution recommending FCC denial of LCG’s petition to preempt. The National Association of Counties and Municipal League, together representing 80% of Americans, also recommended denial of any local preemption. By February, 2000, four lawsuits were pending: 1) CARE vs. JeffCo (FOX-31 expansion), 2) Bear Creek Development vs. JeffCo for the Mt. Morrison tower replacement denial; 3) Lake Cedar Group vs. JeffCo; and 4) CARE vs. FCC on the 1998 petition to stop licensing antennas for residential areas.
Award-winning filmmaker Len Aitken produced a documentary of the controversy, “Lookout,” which was one of 12 films selected (of 1,400 submitted) for the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival in 2001. No corporate media would broadcast the film. International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety signed a resolution in February 2002 stating “ more evidence has accumulated suggesting that there are adverse health effects from occupational and public exposures to electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields current assessment and scientific study are grossly inadequate and there is a need to examine the evidence of this emerging, potential public health issue.” Americans Dr. Carl Blackman and Dr. Henry Lai were among the 25 professionals who signed the resolution. Golden, Genesee and Lookout citizens gained 3,500 signatures recommending no more radiation from broadcast antennas in residential areas.
May 2003: JeffCo Planning Commission votes 4 to 3 recommending approval of Lake Cedar Group’s second proposal for broadcast television antennas (no rental to broadcast radio) on a 730-foot tower, a 20,000 sq. ft. building and removal of analog towers. JeffCo Planning Staff recommended denial. Hundreds of Greater Golden residents again packed the Taj Mahal hearing room on April 9, April 30, May 7 and May 14. Organizations representing 30,000 citizens request denial. About 28 broadcast media employees and consultants, friends and relatives of employees and consultants, attended and seven testified for approval. Most signed in as residents of Littleton, Westminster, Denver, Englewood, and Lakewood.
August 2004: Commissioners Sheehan, Lawrence, and Holloway approved the LCG Supertower and congratulated LCG after their decision. Golden and CARE filed litigation for reversal and Judge Jackson refused to lift the injunction against construction until a decision was made.
March thru August, 2006: Channels 4, 7, and 9 aired an advertising campaign claiming “a small group of people are preventing us from bringing YOU digital television.”
May 2006: Judge Brooke Jackson again remands the LCG rezoning case to the Board of County Commissioners for a final decision in response to CARE, the City of Golden and many individuals filing. “The responsibility of the board now is to review the record and then make a decision on the proposed rezoning...” New Commissioners McCasky, Congrove, and Auburn are not expected to rule before until December, 2006.
December 6-9, 2006: Colorado Senators Salazar and Allard sponsor preemption of local control. After thousands of citizens and the city of Golden worked for eight years to protect 50,000 residents of the Greater Golden area from an increase of polluting electrosmog, Denver TV channels 4, 7, 9, and 20 paid Washington D.C. lobbyists to covertly “hotline” a bill through the U. S. Senate and House. Senate Bill 4092 was lumped in with 30+ other “non-controversial” bills, without a vote of elected representatives or citizen participation, just before adjournment of the 109th Congress.
The bill signed by President George W. Bush states:
Notwithstanding any applicable State or local land use or condemnation laws or regulations, and subject to all applicable Federal laws and regulations, any person that holds an approved Federal Communications Commission permit to construct or install either a digital television broadcast station antenna or tower, or both, located on Lookout Mountain in Jefferson County in the State of Colorado, may, at such location, construct, install, use, modify, replace, repair, or consolidate such antenna or tower, or both, and all accompanying facilities and services associated with such digital television broadcasts, if such antenna or tower is of the same height or lower than the tallest existing analog broadcast antenna or tower at such location.
In March, 2007, County Commissioners McCasky, Hartman and Griffin approved the 2003 LCG application, which requires sending signals only to the east, removal of analog towers and no broadcast radio station rental. Lake Cedar Group built their digital tower and turned on the signals at full power in June, 2009. If conditions proposed by LCG in 2003 are honored, the community will be relieved of extreme electrosmog.
The City of Denver operates antennas on Mount Morrison above Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. A radio and television broadcast tower was approved by county commissioners in 1988 to provide an alternative to Lookout Mountain. A PBS Channel 6 proposal to replace a Mt. Morrison tower in 2003 was opposed by some Genesee residents until the Colorado Court of Appeals approved it in 2009. Evergreen residents who opposed Squaw Mountain as the ideal CARE-recommended alternative site for digital television, complain in 2009 about not receiving the east directional signals from the Supertower on Lookout.
The irony of this battle between polluters and citizens is that only 15% of television viewers receive over-the-air signals as most subscribe to cable or satellite services. The other ironic reality provided by engineer Al Hislop is, “It requires 500-1000 watts to send 200 TV channels 22,000 miles from a satellite to reach half of the U.S. It requires 100,000 watts to send one TV channel 80 miles from a land-based tower. Satellites are solar powered. Towers are powered by finite polluting fossil fuel.”
One of few remaining journalists with integrity, Bill Moyers, said, “Corporate news mediabroadcast, print, and internethas become a profit center that determines the public image of all politicians who provide what they want, regardless of harm to local communities.”
For more information, see Antenna Tower Update.