In 2018, a company called Insite Development approached the Old Spanish Trail Arena with a proposal to lease a 2500 square-foot parcel on the arena property to erect a 130-foot tower that would be used to improve cell phone coverage in the south part of the valley. The lease was approved in 2019 with a monthly fee of $1500 to be paid by Insite, plus another $400 a month for any additional users of the tower. The lease would last for 40 years. Final approval was still pending for the agreement, hinging on the fulfillment of various legal obligations by the company, such as obtaining approvals for zoning changes and easements.

County Attorney Christina Sloan presented the lease agreement with a list of pros and cons. On the positive side, in addition to the revenue, the proposed tower would improve cell phone service both within OSTA and in Spanish Valley. OSTA Director Angie Book said that poor cell service was a big problem when the facility was serving as a headquarters for the management team of the Pack Creek Fire. The tower could also provide free lighting for nighttime OSTA events, and the county would have free access to the tower for security cameras, wireless internet, and other uses.

The disadvantages of the agreement would be the ‘unsightliness’ of the 130-foot tower, which is substantially taller than any other tower in the county and the difficulty of keeping the tower in compliance with the county’s Dark Skies ordinance. The agreement would also require OSTA to relocate some planned improvements, and would burden the county with some liability.

Grand County IT Coordinator Matt Ceniceros called in with the opinion that better cell coverage in the south end of the valley is critical, especially for emergency managers and for events that draw hundreds of people to OSTA.

Commissioner Trisha Hedin said that she has lived in Spanish Valley for years and doesn’t have a problem with cell phone reception, though she acknowledged that there are likely issues with cell coverage at the arena.

Commissioner Kevin Walker agreed that better cell coverage in Spanish Valley is desirable, but he doesn’t think the proposed cell tower is the only, or best, option to achieve it. He cited the length of the lease and the tower’s incompatibility with the Dark Sky ordinance as reasons to at least consider other ways to improve communications. He then made a motion to revoke the 2019 approval of the lease agreement, and the motion passed 5-1, with Commission Chair Mary McGann abstaining.