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Denver DTV: Finally, It's a Go

After a four-year battle, Denver TV stations have been granted approval to build a tower on Lookout Mountain to provide over-the-air digital signals. Denver is the only top-30 market not yet offering over-the-air DTV.

"We hope to break ground next spring and be up with digital TV signals to meet the 2006 deadline," says Fred Niehaus, Lake Cedar Group spokesman. The Lake Cedar Group comprises the Mile High City's KCNC-TV (CBS), KMGH-TV (ABC), KTVD(TV) (UPN) and KUSA-TV (NBC).

The Jefferson County board of commissioners approved the most recent proposal by a 3-0 vote. Lookout Mountain currently is home to three large towers and a number of smaller towers. The new facility will consolidate those towers and buildings into one tower and one building on an 80-acre site (72 acres of which will be set aside for open-space purposes). The new tower will be 730 feet tall, 130 feet shorter than the existing KCNC-TV tower. It will also be located 200 feet farther down the mountain, effectively making it 300 feet shorter. Three buildings will be consolidated into one, with half of that underground.

The vote concluded hours upon hours of testimony in recent weeks as concerned citizens under the direction of Canyon Area Residents for the Environment (CARE) argued against the site because of concern over RF emissions.

"Our community already had a statistically significant elevation in brain cancers," says CARE spokeswoman Deb Carney. "This proposal would immediately add 9 million Watts of effective radiated power."

Niehaus says the approved proposal was designed to meet citizen concerns and issues. For example, FM transmitters will not be included on the new tower.

The Lake Cedar Group will meet with the commissioners on Aug. 19, he adds, to formally adopt written recommendations. Carney says an appeal is likely and would have to be filed within 30 days of Aug. 19.

"There is great distress within the community," she adds. "Physicians, electrical engineers, scientists and many others gave strong testimony against this. The decision is contrary to the evidence."

Niehaus says an appeal would not deter the LCG from moving forward. "It could hold up the issuing of building permits and the construction phase, but we're going to proceed as if it's a go."