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Relay Ridge Cell Tower tabled for further wildlife and visual impact studies

This was supposed to be a final hearing for a conditional use permit (CUP) for Silver Star Communications to build a 100-foot communication tower on the far northern end of Relay Ridge in the Big Hole Mountains, west of Tetonia. At the previous hearing before P&Z, it was not made clear that a utility line would need to be run all the way from Highway 33 to the tower site. In some rocky places, the line would need to be above ground.

The tower site itself is located in the middle of the Grandview Ranch property. The attorney for Grandview emphasized that the access to the site is in dispute, with Silver Star potentially condemning an access across Grandview’s property. VARD reiterated our earlier comments that the county needs to create a communications overlay to avoid a piecemeal process, which (in the past) has resulted in redundant towers. For example, in the nearby area, there are towers in Tetonia, Felt, Clementsville, two in Lamont, and several further south on Relay Ridge. Most are designed for co-location between companies, but it is unclear which towers have residual space for additional cellular providers. This kind of basic regional information would help inform these kinds of CUP decisions, and avoid redundant towers.

One new issue that was brought up was the need for a visual impact analysis regarding the power lines. Wildlife impacts were also a large concern to Grandview as their property is prime big game and sage grouse habitat. Grandview argued that since the county put so much effort and emphasis behind the recent adoption of the wildlife overlay and natural resources regulations – the county needs to put their words into action and carefully scrutinize wildlife impacts here. Commissioner Park moved to table this CUP pending visual impacts analysis and a wildlife analysis, and the motion passed unanimously. Click here for our previous meeting report on the hearing before the county P&Z.

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