The Fayette Citizen-News Page
Wednesday, December 16, 1998
New tower rules approved by county over cell firms' protests

Staff Writer

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After hearing from representatives of cell phone companies who complained that proposed new rules for communications towers in Fayette were too restrictive, the County Commission last week made the rules slightly more restrictive, and then approved them.

Commissioners voted 4-1, with Glen Gosa opposed, to approve the ordinance, but struck a provision that would have allowed more towers to be approved administratively, without public hearings.

Gosa called for a delay in the vote to give commissioners more time to consider changes proposed by cell phone industry representatives.

"If you have an ordinance that is overly restrictive, then you run afoul of the [federal] Telecommunications Act," said Woody Galloway of Dillard and Galloway, speaking on behalf of AT&T Wireless. "The ordinance, in its current form, would not allow carriers to service the county as they are required to do under the act," he added.

Galloway urged the commission to strike a provision that would allow no variances for towers located within residential zones. If an existing tower was built under old ordinances that allowed variances, the new law would prohibit companies from putting more antennas on that same tower, he said. Such co-location is encouraged elsewhere in the ordinance.

He also asked the commission to reduce the required distance between towers and homes from 1,000 to 500 feet, also without success.

Chuck Palmer of Air Touch Cellular called for a number of changes as well, including a request that commissioners drop a requirement that companies put up performance bonds to ensure that they will remove towers that are no longer needed. The county can put a lien on the property in such a case, he said.

But residents addressing the commission urged the group to make it as restrictive as possible. "The proposed standards are valid and should not be reduced," said Bob McElroy.

Commissioner Scott Burrell suggested the Planning Commission, which developed the ordinance in conjunction with staff, might want to "take it back and finesse it a little bit," but Commissioner Harold Bost offered a motion to approve the law with only two changes: a return to previous rules on administrative approval, and a provision that companies need only show proof that they tried to co-locate on another company's tower before building their own.

The law as written would have required a letter from the owner of the other tower.

Gosa suggested that company representatives had made some valid suggestions that needed study, but Commissioner Herb Frady pointed out, "This isn't the last chance we'll have to do anything with this ordinance."

The law provides for "floating zones" along several major thoroughfares. If companies locate towers within 500 feet of the major roads, they can put them in any zoning category. Anywhere else, the towers are restricted to commercial, industrial or A-R (agricultural-residential) districts, and in A-R districts towers must be monopoles.

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