USA City Ordinances to Limit and Control Wireless Facilities Small Cells in Rights of Ways
LOCAL GOVERNMENT POLICIES & ORDINANCES TO REGULATE AND CONTROL WIRELESS FACILITIES SMALL CELLS
From coast to coast local governments are taking action to protect their communities from the unfettered deployment of 4G and 5G “small cell” wireless facilities. Several cities are passing ordinances that strictly limit the buildout. Many policymakers ask “What are other cities doing?”
This page is a compilation of top examples of what cities are doing to protect their communities. For each city we provide a short synopsis along with a link to download the ordinance or policy. Scroll down to see the City and policy. Please download and share these examples with your community.
Local ordinances note various purposes such as preserving visual character, protecting environmental resources, and protecting residents against adverse health effects. They take a variety of approaches, such as prohibiting small cells in certain areas, creating application and recertification fees and imposing aesthetic and administrative requirements. Some combine several of these approaches.
Importantly, federal pre-emption has been exaggerated. Local governments do have authority to impose procedural requirements for example. Please consider these two useful documents that came out of the efforts in Montgomery County Maryland by the law office of Mark C. Del Bianco and which clarify what localities can and cannot do in terms of procedural requirements for companies.
- 12/ 20/2018 “Summary of Proposed FCC Small Cell Order”: A critical read on the FCC order.
- 10/2018 Memo: “Federal Law Does Not Prohibit the County from Imposing Stricter Procedural Requirements on Wireless Facilities Than on Other Pole Attachments”
See more resources on 5G – including the research in health effects and impacts to people, trees and wildlife here. Wireless radiation has harmful biological effects levels far below government limits.
Examples of areas addressed in these ordinances:
- Prohibiting small cell installations in residential areas, certain streets, etc
- Requiring installations to be a certain distance away from residences, schools, hospitals, and/or other installations
- Specifying that installations must be relocated if/when they would interfere with a public project
AESTHETICS / ENVIRONMENT
- Aesthetic, design, and noise requirements such as colocation, camouflage, height and light limits, etc.
ADMINISTRATIVE / LEGAL
- Requiring that residents who will be within a certain distance of an installation be notified
- Instating automatic time limits for permits
- Requiring annual recertification fees
- Requiring permittees to defend and indemnify the city from any liabilities arising from permits and the installation, operation and maintenance of small cell installations
- Reserving the right to hire independent consultants at the applicant’s expense
- Appointing a committee to study the viability of a fiber optic network
New Hampshire has a proposed bill which would establish a commission to study the environmental and health effects of 5G technology and Montana has a proposed Joint Resolution of the Senate and House of Representatives urging Congress to amend the 1996 TCA to account for health effects.
Louisiana Bill: Requests the Department of Environmental Quality in conjunction with the Louisiana Department of Health to study the effects of evolving 5G technology. To urge and request the Department of Environmental Quality in conjunction with the Louisiana Department of Health to study the environmental and health effects of evolving fifth generation cellular network technology (5G) and report its findings to the House Committee….WHEREAS, peer-reviewed studies on this topic show the potential for wide-range effects; and WHEREAS, 5G technology requires small cellular towers to be placed a short distance apart, closer than existing towers, at telephone pole height, and will operate in conjunction with the 3G and 4G technology infrastructure; andWHEREAS, the insurance industry may have placed exclusions in policies to exempt damage caused by this technology; and WHEREAS, certain manufacturers provide warnings to consumers regarding the reception of devices using this technology;…”
New Hampshire Bill 522: An act establishing a commission to study the environmental and health effects of evolving 5G technology which asks “Why have 1,000s of peer-reviewed studies, including the recently published U.S. Toxicology Program 16-year $30 million study, that are showing a wide-range of statistically significant DNA damage, brain and heart tumors, infertility, and so many other ailments, being ignored by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC)?” and “Why are the FCC-sanctioned guidelines for public exposure to wireless radiation based only on the thermal effect on the temperature of the skin and do not account for the non- thermal, non-ionizing, biological effects of wireless radiation?”
Did not pass: Montana Joint Resolution 13 “A JOINT RESOLUTION OF THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STATE OF MONTANA URGING CONGRESS TO AMEND THE FEDERAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT TO ACCOUNT FOR HEALTH EFFECTS OF SITING SMALL CELL NETWORK EQUIPMENT IN RESIDENTIAL AREAS” which states “the State of Montana has long valued its healthy environment and the well-being of its citizens; and the siting of modern small cell network infrastructure in residential areas can create radiation exposure risks for citizens; and section 704 of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits state and local governments from regulating wireless service provider infrastructure siting on the basis of environmental effects. NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STATE OF MONTANA Congress be urged to amend the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 to account for the health effects of siting small cell network equipment in residential areas.”
Greendale, Wisconsin Resolution No. R2018-20 in November 2018
The Board of Trustees of the Village of Greendale, County of Milwaukee, State of Wisconsin, passed Resolution No. R2018-20 in November 2018 in opposition to the FCC’s September 26, 2018 Order because the Order s an unprecedented attack on local control of Greendale’s largest asset, the public rights-of-way, for 5G technology; threatens the Village’s responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of its residents; and threatens the Village of Greendale’s designation as a National Historic Landmark.
The Village asked the FCC for changes that maintain a reasonable level of local control. The Resolution was sent to the FCC and State and Federal officials.Resolution No. R2018-20 Greendale Wisconsin RESOLUTION RELATING TO EXPANDED USE OF PUBLIC RIGHT OF WAY BY WIRELESS PROVIDERS FOR 5G TECHNOLOGY AND OTHER WIRELESS SERVICES, AND ASKING FOR CHANGES THAT MAINTAIN A REASONABLE LEVEL OF LOCAL CONTROL
EXAMPLES OF POLICIES & ORDINANCES
Note: These were compiled from EHT research of various sources and a special thank you to Physicians for Safe Technology, My Streets My Choice, Scientists for Wired Technologyand Last Tree Laws for their extensive resources utilized on this page. Please be sure to go to these pages for more information. Please contact EHT to add your Cities information to this page.
In addition, Americans For Responsible Technology has created a Sample Small Cell Ordinance that cities can use as a starting point which incorporates several- although not all- of these issues. Please download their model ordinance and utilize their extensive resources at this link.
Marin County California Draft as of June 21, 2019
Marin drafts preferences for 5G rollout, Point Reyes Light
- “Marin’s draft rules select industrial, commercial or agricultural sites, or sites near public facilities, as preferred locations for the antennas; residential and mixed-use sites and areas within 1,500 feet of schools and daycare centers are the least-preferred locations.The draft favors placing antennas on existing street poles or traffic lights, versus new poles or small cell facilities. It limits antennas to one per pole and stipulates they must be at least 1,000 feet apart. It also includes aesthetic requirements that aim to blend equipment, and prohibits equipment on historic buildings.”
Petaluma, California: Ordinance of the City Council of Petaluma
- Protect environmental resources; protect residents against adverse health effects
- Protect visual character; don’t create visual blight
- Protect environmental resources; protect residents against adverse health effects
- Commercial or industrial zones
- Antennas must connect to an already existing utility pole that can support its weight.
- Servicing wires must be installed within the width of the existing utility.
- All ground-mounted equipment not to be installed inside the pole must be undergrounded, flush to the ground, within three (3) feet of the utility pole.
- Dedicated power source to be installed and metered separately.
- 1,500 feet minimum between each Small Cell facility.
- No Small Cell shall be within 500 feet of any residence.
- An encroachment permit must be obtained for any work in the right-of-way.
Fairfax, California: Urgency Ordinance to Establish New Regulations for Wireless Telecommunications Facilities; Ad hoc committee to study viability of fiber network
News: Marin Independent Journal Fairfax to study fiber-optic broadband amid protest against 5G
This policy defines adequate coverage and adequate capacity. It details that it was designed “to locate towers and/or antennas in a manner which protects property values, as well as the general safety, health, welfare and quality of life of the citizens of Warren and all those who visit this community, minimize the total number and height of towers throughout Warren, and provide standards and requirements for the regulation, placement, design, appearance, construction, monitoring, modification and removal of telecommunications facilities and towers.”
- “Coverage is considered to be “adequate” within that area surrounding a Base Station where the predicted or measured median field strength of the transmitted signal is such that the majority of the time, transceivers properly installed and operated will be able to communicate with the base station. In the case of cellular communications in a rural environment like Warren, this would be a signal strength of at least -90 dBm for at least 75% of the coverage area. It is acceptable for there to be holes within the area of Adequate Coverage where the signal is less than -90 dBm, as long as the signal regains its strength to greater than -90 dBm further away from the Base Station.”
- “Capacity is considered to be “adequate” if the Grade of Service (GOS) is p.05 or better for median traffic levels offered during the typical busy hour, as assessed by direct measurement of the Personal Wireless Service Facility in question.”
Burlington, Massachusetts: Town of Burlington Policy Applications for Small Cell Wireless Installations, October 22, 2018
- Small Cell Committee drafted policy with annual recertification fees. Verizon withdrew its application, concerned by the precedent it would set and questioning its legality.
- Verizon attorney Mr. Klasnick stated “My client respectfully requests to withdraw the petition rather than have a fee,” he said.(BCATTV)
According to BCATTV Verizon Drops Small Cell Wireless Booster Application in Face of Fees:
“This week Selectman Jim Tigges, the board’s representative on the Small Cells Committee, said the group had come up with a new policy for small cell applications. The policy contains a number of provisions while filing an application, including setting installation fees, listing the town department that must receive a copy for review and setting up the timeline for approval.
The Verizon application, however, would not be subject to the policy because it was submitted before its adoption. However, Tigges and the committee did have a number of conditions for the project it recommended to the board. They included:
– No apparatus on double poles
– An agreement to annual recertification
– Equipment shall be located on top of the poles, colored similarly to the polse so as to blend in.
– Equipment shall not interfere with other equipment on the pole, nor obstruct or interfere with access to or operation of street lights or traffic controls devices on the pole.
– Poles must meet ADA standards.”
-NEWS: Verizon Drops Small Cell Wireless Booster Application in Face of Fees, October 23, 2018
Palos Vardes, California
According to citizens of the City, after citizen uproar, Crown Castle began complying with municipal aesthetic requirements and moving proposed locations out of neighborhoods and away from homes. The ordinance has four key components, if these are met the site will almost certainly be approved:
- Minimal antenna size with screening
- All accessory equipment underground (everything except the antenna)
- Combining sites with existing vertical infrastructure (streetlights, traffic signals, etc.)
- Strict location restrictions, no sites on local, residential streets without an exception granted
If they don’t comply with these, then the applicant must demonstrate the site is required to fill a significant gap and there is no less intrusive alternative to receive an exception. This is not simply checking a box (i.e. the applicant just claiming these conditions exist) but has to be demonstrated to the City planning commission via engineering analysis.
Palo Alto California
City Council voted unanimously to approve a Resolution and amended Wireless Ordinance that City Staff had proposed. Council also voted unanimously in favor of a motion to direct City Staff “to come back as soon as possible but [in] no more than [one year], with an updated Ordinance/Resolution that considers” (and e summarizing):
- Disfavoring the placement of cell towers in, for example, residential zones and near schools;
- Minimum setbacks for cell towers from homes and schools, and minimum distances between cell towers;
- Creating a list of city-owned buildings that would be appropriate sites for macro cell towers (i.e., as an alternative to small cell node cell towers next to people’s homes);
Council also voted to direct City Staff to return to Council with a recommendation for “best practices” with respect to inspecting antennas.
“Seeking to strike a balance between federal requirements and resident concerns, Palo Alto approved on Monday night new rules for reviewing the flurry of applications that the city has been receiving from telecommunication companies seeking to install antennas on local streetlights and utility poles.
By a 6-0 vote, with Councilman Greg Tanaka absent, the council adopted a set of “objective standards” for wireless communication facilities, including a menu of preferred design alternatives for radio equipment and antennas. And in a nod to the dozens of residents who have raised alarms about the proliferation of cellular facilities on their blocks, the council launched a new effort to further restrict where such technology can be installed and to explore “minimum distance” requirements for wireless equipment in relation to local schools and homes.”
Monterey California has now included that it can deny outright an incomplete application “without prejudice”. That stops the shotclock, and it allows an application to be resubmitted all over again along with paying the fees again.
to be updated soon.
Mill Valley, California: Urgency Ordinance No 18, September 6, 2018
- New or updated facilities prohibited in residential zones. Commercial only.
- Facilities installed on poles in public right of way must be 1,500 feet apart
- Design, noise standards
- Facilities in public right of way that would interfere with future projects / improvements must be relocated
- Promptly remove facilities when no longer needed; replace with smaller facilities as feasible
- Defend and indemnify the City
San Anselmo, California Council Policy
- People within 300 feet of proposed antenna will be notified
- Town is entitled to employ independent consultant at applicant’s expense to evaluate exceptions
Ross Valley, California: Wireless Telecommunications Facilities
- Modeled after Mill Valley’s
- Adopted regulations prohibit facilities in residential and downtown zoning district.
- Facilities proposed in the public right-of-way subject to separate design criteria.
- Limits height and width of facilities to a minimum necessary for property function.
- Maximum height of 24 feet above the height of the existing utility pole and 7 feet above a street light standard.
- Requires equipment to be placed underground.
Danville, California: Proposed Ordinance No. 2018-07: Wireless Communication Facilities
- Aesthetic requirements (design guidelines may be developed and amended from time to time to clarify aesthetic and public safety goals and standards)
- Utilities must be underground to extent feasible. “Meters, panels, disconnect switches and other associated improvements must be placed in inconspicuous locations to the extent possible”.
- Permits valid for initial period of 10 years max
- “Where feasible, the location of wireless communication facilities shall be encouraged to be located on publicly owned or controlled property or right-of-way.”
- Would allow small cells in residential districts:
–“All facilities shall be substantially screened from the view of surrounding properties and the public view or collocated with existing facilities or structures so as not to create substantial additional visual, noise, or thermal impacts. “
–Property owners within 300 ft of proposed site must be notified
Little Silver New Jersey
- Carriers should provide notice to property owners within five hundred (500’) feet of the proposed Telecommunications Facility.
- The applicant must demonstrate to the reasonable satisfaction of the Borough that no existing personal wireless Telecommunication Service Facility within a reasonable distance can accommodate needs.
- Indemnification clause: “Each license grantee shall indemnify and hold the Borough and its officers, employees, agents and representatives harmless from and against any and all damages, losses and expenses, including reasonable attorney’s fees and costs of suit or defense, arising out of, resulting from or alleged to arise out of or result from the negligent, careless or wrongful acts, omissions, failures to act or misconduct of the grantee or its affiliates, officers, employees, agents, contractors or subcontractors in the construction, operation, maintenance, repair or removal of its Telecommunications Facilities, and in providing or offering Telecommunications Services over the facilities, whether such acts or omissions are authorized, allowed or prohibited by this Chapter or by a grant agreement made or entered into pursuant to this Chapter.”
- “Little Silver New Jersey: AN ORDINANCE AMENDING AND SUPPLEMENTING CHAPTER 16A “LAND USE AND DEVELOPMENT ORDINANCE” OF THE REVISED GENERAL ORDINANCES OF THE BOROUGH OF LITTLE SILVER, COUNTY OF MONMOUTH, STATE OF NEW JERSEY AMENDING SECTION 16A-2 “DEFINITIONS” AND 16A-5 GENERAL PROVISION ADDING NEW SUBSECTION 5-28 “PLACEMENT OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS FACILITIES”
Walnut City, California
“Telecommunication towers and antennas shall not be located within 1,500 feet of any school (nursery, elementary, junior high, and high school), trail, park or outdoor recreation area, sporting venues, and residential zones.”
To see the code online go to https://qcode.us/codes/walnut/, Click on “Title 6: Planning and Zoning” Click on “Chapter 6.88 ANTENNAS AND COMMUNICATION FACILITIES”, Click on “6.88.060 Design standards, See Item “O.
Sebastopol, California: City Council Agenda Item Report and Urgency Ordinance (Recommended)
- Purpose: Institute a moratorium on applications for small cells in the public right-of-way until adoption of a permanent ordinance
Previous regulations on telecommunications facilities (according to the recommended urgency ordinance, these did not anticipate 5G and do not address installation of telecommunications facilities in the right-of-way):
- Purpose: Protect visual character, inhabitants, environmental resources
Cannot be located in any required yard setback area
- Facilities within 400 feet of residential areas, schools, churches, hospitals etc must comply with NIER standards
- Minor facilities must be 75 feet away from a “residential dwelling unit” except 1 single family residence on the property where it is located
Pittsfield, Massachusetts: Proposed Section: Wireless Communications Facilities
- Telecom company must prove prefered site/existing structure does not work
- Above ground aesthetic requirements
- Sound and light restrictions with emphasis on industry proving compliance
Hempstead, New York: Wireless Communications Facilities
- Requires a special use permit for cell towers that encourages location of new wireless facilities so as to minimize their impact on historically sensitive areas around residences, schools, houses of worship, day-care centers. Seven consideration factors are listed in order from more to least preferred, with existing towers being most preferred and new towers in residential zones least preferred.
- Prohibits towers from exceeding a height that permits it to operate without artificial lighting
- Allows the town to hire consultants and do inspections
- Set a fee schedule of $500 per pole
- Requires a 4 foot warning sign on the pole
- Utilities at wireless installations should be underground when possible
Mason, Ohio: Zoning Ordinance – Wireless Communications Systems
- No small cells in residential areas or within 100 feet of property used for residential use
- Small cells must be 2000 feet apart (unless colocated)
- Small cells are between 20-30 ft high (may be able to exceed 30 ft if colocated)
- Every attempt shall be made to locate small cells on existing structures; if not available, within public right of way
- All related equipment should be underground or wholly contained so not visible
- Each facility shall consist of no more than 1 antenna/user and capable of providing communication for at least 2 users
Sonoma, California: Report and Urgency Ordinance
On Nov 5, 2018 Sonoma approved their 5G urgency ordinance.
“Based on the foregoing, the City Council finds and determines that the immediate preservation of the public health, safety and welfare requires that this Ordinance be enacted as an urgency ordinance pursuant to Government Code Section 36937(b), and take effect immediately upon adoption. Therefore, this Ordinance is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, safety and welfare and its urgency is hereby declared.”
The City also has a Small Cell Tower page.
San Rafael, California: City Council Report
- City Staff Report: URGENCY ORDINANCE AMENDING THE SAN RAFAEL MUNICIPAL CODE TITLE 14 (ZONING) AND ACCOMPANYING POLICY RESOLUTION TO ESTABLISH PROVISIONS AND PROCEDURES FOR REGULATING THE PLACEMENT OF SMALL WIRELESS FACILITIES
- San Rafael, California: December 2018 Documentation for City Action on 12/18/2018
This document also reviews other Cities 5G small cell policies.
“I want the city and county government to clearly say no to the FCC,” said resident Arthur Saftlas. “No 5G installations of any kind in Marin, until it can be proven safe for us and the environment.”- San Rafael, Calif., Officials Work to Tighten 5G Regulation
Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Zoning Changes via Ordinance 9-2016
- City Council rushed through zoning changes to declare many streets off limits to new poles (said they could be much taller than existing ones)
- Public Utility Commission stripped Mobilitie and other distributed-antenna companies of utility status, meaning that they would not get any more “certificates of public convenience” in Pennsylvania.
Holyoke, MA: Initial Request
- Draft policy $500 fee for city inspection of rooftop poles/roofs every 2 years
- Holyoke has submitted an order from councilor Bartley Roman to limit equipment and require $500 apiece per small cell–$500 may exceed FCC limits. At-large councilor Rebecca Lisi, on behalf of a Holyoke resident, recently submitted to the town lawyer a copy of the ordinance drafted by Pittsfield.
Information from https://www.lasttreelaws.com/ordinances.html
Booneville, Arkansas, September 2018
Proposed Ordinance would limit cell towers to 250 ft max; industrial zones
Monterey, California: Verizon’s application denied
Commissioners overruled staff and voted 7-0 to deny telecom giant Verizon’s small cell application
Los Angeles, California: Deal with Verizon; letter from Mayor to FCC
- “in exchange for amenities such as free Wi-Fi in Skid Row and at recreation centers, $400,000 of scholarship money, and launching an innovation center in the city, L.A. is charging Verizon just $175 per device per year for 10 years for up to 1,000 installations, plus the cost of electricity.” (LA Times)
- “In a letter to the FCC, Mayor Eric Garcetti urged the commission to rewrite the ruling before its adoption, arguing that the decision would “insert confusion into the market, and sow mistrust between my technology team and the carriers with whom we have already reached agreements.”” (LA Times)
San Jose, California: Negotiated agreement
“officials made improved access to areas with low internet participation a precondition for reducing fees…agreement set tiered costs per network node installation, with lower fees for companies deploying more nodes. Along with this incentive, three companies pledged to contribute a total of $24 million over the next decade to a digital inclusion fund.” (GovTech)
September 2018 The Future of 5G: The Bitter Battle for Local Control
Note: These were compiled from EHT research of various sources and a special thank you to Physicians for Safe Technology, My Streets My Choice and Last Tree Laws for their extensive resources. Please contact EHT to add your Cities information.
Other Important Websites on 5G and Small Cells.