© 2004 Updated: 9/23/04


June, 2002

Extreme "adverse impact" of Chicago’s Tribune Corp towers

In response to the Zoning Administrator’s denial of adding DTV in 2002, Tribune Corporation will ask for a "variance" from the JeffCo Board of Adjustment on June 26. Some background will show the extraordinary greed of this Corporation’s present action.

Los Angeles TV stations began building towers "at the edge of town" above the HOLLYWOOD sign in the 1940s. They soon realized the ugly polluting towers were too close to people and hindered the image of the movie capitol of the world. They moved to resident-free, Angeles National Forest above Pasadena. There are no adverse effects for people or businesses from towers on Mount Wilson at 5,710 feet above sea level, where broadcast signals cover the region from Santa Barbara to San Diego. Mount Wilson is to LA as Squaw Mountain is to Denver.

Denver broadcasters also chose a famous site "at the edge of town" above historic Golden, 2000 feet higher than downtown Denver. The 4.5-mile, scenic Lariat Trail built in 1914 and U.S. Highway 40 completed in 1937 were the best access to a foothills site. The east summit of Lookout Mountain, famous for Buffalo Bill’s Grave and the Pahaska TeePee, helped publicize the launch of television.

In 1952, the first tower was built for KFEL (later WGN than KWGN) where tourists had arrived by funicular. The 1.3-acre site was purchased from former JeffCo Commissioner (1929-37) John "Jack" Browne who had acquired it for taxes in 1937.

Innocent Golden and Lookout residents assumed the "towers" would provide them with better television and radio reception. The Cold War and fear of Communism caused citizens to not question government decisions. Americans did not know about toxic effects of tobacco, DDT, asbestos and electromagnetic radiation pollution from transmitters.

By 1955, three more towers rose above Cedar Lake, a reservoir designed by Frederick Olmsted in 1890 for a Denver-Lookout Mountain Resort. Another tower rose next to Charles Boettcher’s Lorraine Lodge, built on Colorow Road in 1917. More than 300 homes had filled Lookout Mountain lots platted from 1904 to 1952.

In 1956, Jefferson County zoned all historic housing plats Mountain Resident-1. The agricultural-zoned, 1.3-acre, WGN tower site was "non-conforming and shall not be extended" without approval by Board of Adjustment. From 1978 to 1998, more than 1000 transmission devices were added to 30+ towers on Lookout. The Effective Radiated Power (ERP) rose from one million megawatts to eleven million. The residential population of Mount Vernon Canyon also grew ten times to 9,000.

By 1995, more than 500,000 people were visiting the Western history Buffalo Bill site. In 1999, President Clinton designated the site as an "American Treasure." It is as famous for Denver as the Hollywood sign is for Los Angeles.

Gullible JeffCo’s dealings with KWGN

Tribune Corporation of Chicago has never informed the FCC of significant historic properties within 350 feet of its Denver towers. From 1970 to 1991, radiated power at the KWGN triple-tower site rose from 100 kilowatts to 3 million kilowatts (3 megawatts). "Hot spots" on public land have exceeded the FCC and JeffCo limit since 1992. KWGN self-reported measurements are limited to 250 feet from the towers.

Jefferson County began to process new tower site regulations in 1989. In addition to transmitters for TV Channels 2, 43, 50, and 57 and FM radio stations KBPI and KAZY, Tribune’s Denver attorney Charles Greenhouse proposed rezoning the site for "special use" to increase tenant income. On May 25, 1990, Greenhouse verbally assured JeffCo planners that the KCEC-Channel 50 antenna would be mounted 120 feet above the ground and emit no more than one megawatt.

Construction of new towers and transmitter building expansion were completed on September 20. Opposition was voiced by JeffCo Open Space and Denver Park officials and CARE representative Karen Bull. The JeffCo Planning Commission recommended approval on September 31. The build-while-applying tactic worked. County Commissioners Stone, Ferdinandsen and Clement approved the expansion on November 27, 1990.

Tribune never acknowledged adverse impact on the Lariat Trail and Lookout Mountain Park, including Buffalo Bill’s Grave and the Pahaska Teepee, which were nominated on May 18 and accepted on the National Register of Historic Places on November 15, 1990.

JeffCo officials realize they were duped

On March 20, 1991, JeffCo Planning Director wrote a memo explaining that KWGN was required to inform JeffCo before adding devices "to give the County an opportunity to evaluate if the increase in power could cause a health risk" or constitute an unpermitted expansion of a legal non-conforming use." KWGN has never informed JeffCo of tenant services.

Karen Bull notified County Commissioners that the KCEC-50 antenna was radiating 2.5 megawatts from 50 feet above ground, at the same altitude as Buffalo Bill’s Grave. Greenhouse responded to county objections on August 16, 1991 stating that the one megawatt and 120-feet above ground conditions were not in writing or in public testimony.

On May 11, 1993, County Commissioners Miller, Stone and Laura adopted zoning regulations for telecommunications sites. The residential-zoned sites and agriculture-zoned parcels below 5-acres remained "non-conforming" and can not be enlarged or expanded.

In 1998, JeffCo Zoning Administrator Dan Brindle denied KWGN’s request for expansion. The proposed increase would have emitted 52% of allowable limits at Buffalo Bill’s Grave. In 1999, CARE engineers informed the FCC that emissions from the site exceed legal limits on public land. After the FCC measured the site in February, 2000, Denver newspapers quoted KWGN-TV engineer Don Rooney declaring absolute compliance with the law.

Entravision-KCEC (channel 50) requested that the FCC allow an increase of one million watts output in 2000. After CARE objected, the FCC denied the application.

The total radiation of today’s KWGN site is 3 Megawatts from seven broadcast transmitters and numerous "low power" tenants. Expecting to add four digital TV antennas, Tribune gave notice to the FM stations to vacate this summer. Without the FMs, the digital antennas would increase emissions to 4.5 megawatts, which is comparable to adding 40 additional analog Channel 2 transmitters!

KWGN attorney Charles Greenhouse and engineer Don Rooney are now lobbying JeffCo to prevent specific definition of "same use" antenna exchanges. Digital and analog TV require different FCC licenses and translators, but Rooney claims all TV is the "same." He believes the tower site is "like an airport. You people should not have moved here." Rooney’s 2002 FCC application to extend digital construction permits blames the delay on JeffCo for becoming "increasingly restrictive."

The assessed value of the KWGN site is $194,170, which provides JeffCo with $3,616 in real estate taxes.

Tribune’s other "hot" tower site on Lookout Mountain

Tribune’s other Lookout tower is on a MR-1 zoned, 50% slope east of Cedar Lake Road. The 161-feet high KOSI-FM tower and industrial cabin were built in 1971 (moved from Douglas County). EPA measurements of public areas effected by the transmitter in 1985 were between 50% and 150% of the 1992 limit.

When Tribune promised to "reduce" radiation in 1995, JeffCo Zoning Administrator Dan Brindle permitted expanding service for a second FM. In 1999, citizen engineers measured public areas near the KOSI/KKHK tower from 150% to 250% of the limit. CARE’s petition to the FCC resulted Tribune lowering power emissions. License removal was never considered.

Tribune Corporation sold the two FMs and KEZW-AM to Entercom Communications for $180 million in December, 2001. In January, 2002, a new transmitter was installed that lowered emissions. The KOSI/KKHK tower site is assessed at $29,570 and provides JeffCo taxpayers with $750 annually.