Zoning officials today are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to siting cellular-phone towers or other antenna installations. Although legally, local authorities cannot refuse them or attempt to design zoning regulations based on health effects, the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 does give local governments and entities the right to regulate the placement, construction, and modification of such towers.
SEC. 704. FACILITIES SITING; RADIO FREQUENCY EMISSION STANDARDS.
(a) NATIONAL WIRELESS TELECOMMUNICATIONS SITING POLICY- Section 332(c) (47 U.S.C. 332(c)) is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
(7) PRESERVATION OF LOCAL ZONING AUTHORITY-
(A) GENERAL AUTHORITY- Except as provided in this paragraph, nothing in this Act shall limit or affect the authority of a State or local government or instrumentality thereof over decisions regarding the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities.
(i) The regulation of the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities by any State or local government or instrumentality thereof–
(I) shall not unreasonably discriminate among providers of functionally equivalent services; and
(II) shall not prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the provision of personal wireless services.
(ii) A State or local government or instrumentality thereof shall act on any request for authorization to place, construct, or modify personal wireless service facilities within a reasonable period of time after the
request is duly filed with such government or instrumentality, taking into account the nature and scope of such request.
(iii) Any decision by a State or local government or instrumentality thereof to deny a request to place, construct, or modify personal wireless service facilities shall be in writing and supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record.
(iv) No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commission’s regulations concerning such emissions.
(v) Any person adversely affected by any final action or failure to act by a State or local government or any instrumentality thereof that is inconsistent with this subparagraph may, within 30 days after such action or failure to act, commence an action in any court of competent jurisdiction. The court shall hear and decide such action on an expedited basis. Any person adversely affected by an act or failure to act by a State or local government or any instrumentality thereof that is inconsistent with clause (iv) may petition the Commission for relief.
GenCom has a variance request in front of the Fort Wayne Board of Zoning Appeals to allow it to construct a 150-foot cell phone tower at 1427 Broadway, which is included in our West Central Neighborhood boundaries. The tower will then be leased to Centennial. The tower will sit close to the street and will be completely visible driving Broadway north to south. The tower will also be visible, due to its height, from the opposite direction.
GenCom has not made any effort to work with the West Central Neighborhood on this issue other than to have a Centennial spokesman attend our last meeting. He did not have all the facts or data with him as it related to the need to establish a tower, and it became evident as we continued to ask questions.
One piece of information that did come out of the meeting was the fact that the tower is not needed for residential reception. It primarily is needed to boost cell phone reception by motorists driving through a very minimal “dead zone.” The hypocrisy of this is that we admonish drivers not to talk on their cell phones while driving yet companies turn around and attempt to make reception available in every possible area so that motorists can talk on their phones on their homeward-bound drive.
The following clip is from YouTube and shows the creative ways in which some companies are actually trying to be a “good neighbor.” Apparently, some companies feel it is important to work with communities to reach a solution as to disguising the stark, ugliness of a straight metal structure jutting into the air.
To give an idea of the height of the tower, compare it to the Statue of Liberty – a symbol with which we should all be familiar. The Statue of Liberty is 306.8 feet from the bottom of the base to the top of the torch. From the Statue’s feet on the base to the torch is 152.2 feet. So imagine a tower the size of the Statue plopped down in a highly visible area of heavy traffic.
We have every right to request the zoning board to deny this variance – to have the tower placed elsewhere. But, if the zoning board decides to approve the variance, then we should demand that it impose restrictions on the construction so that it conforms to the guidelines of the West Central Plan adopted by the City. Those guidelines state:
“Encourage new construction designs to be complementary to the historic nature of the neighborhood.”
The argument that it can’t be done is superficial. Fort Wayne Newspapers, Starbucks, and St. Joe Hospital have all done outstanding work on their designs to bring them into conformance with the West Central Plan. It is time residents and citizens made their thoughts and concerns known as to how our neighborhood will be perceived. It is our neighborhood, and we have the right and the obligation to ensure that new structures do, indeed, complement the historic nature of West Central.
WHAT: Public Hearing
WHERE: City-County Building, Room 126 (first floor)
WHEN: Janaury 31, 2008
TIME: 6:00 p.m.