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Monday, August 09, 2010

Milton passes tougher cell tower standards.

By Patrick Fox
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Telecom companies will have a tougher time building and maintaining cell towers in Milton after the city council voted in more restrictive laws governing construction Monday.

The revised ordinance calls for a more detailed application process and more restrictive policies regarding location and height of cell towers, primarily for aesthetic purposes. It also institutes a licensing fee, which the city says will help pay for annual inspections.

The city established a moratorium on cell tower applications in April until it could revise its ordinance. Twice in the past month, the city council has delayed a vote on the ordinance, citing the need for extra time to consider all objections raised by the industry.

No residents spoke on the issue Monday, but representatives from Verizon, AT&T and the Georgia Wireless Association raised questions about the licensing fee. They said the industry is capable of providing inspections and signed affidavits to the city each year.

Sheryl Sellaway, spokeswoman for Verizon, said the company is concerned that such fees could snowball into a major expense.

"It's not just about Milton," she said. "If this comes to be, then there will be other counties that could potentially take on this move to a licensing fee."

The expenses would eventually be passed on to the consumers, she said.

City Attorney Ken Jarrard said the city has an obligation to inspect the facilities for safety and compliance. The industry should bear that cost, he said.

Council member Julie Zahner Bailey said the fee would not be arbitrary but would reflect to only the cost to regulate the industry.

The revised telecommunications ordinance requires applicants to compile a study detailing coverage areas for all existing towers and demonstrate the need for a new tower. This includes whether the tower's proposed height is the minimum necessary to achieve the required coverage.

The industry did win one concession when the city backed out of its requirement that the applicants' coverage studies be certified by a licensed professional engineer. The city agreed to allow radio frequency engineers and professionals to certify such reports, but it insisted professional engineers certify studies relating to the structural integrity of towers.

The ordinance also addressed another industry concern raised last month when an attorney told the council that language in the proposed ordinance may violate the Advanced Broadband Co-location Act signed into law May 24.

In particular, the act requires governments to expedite applications where telecom companies plan to add to or replace equipment at an existing tower. Jarrard said the new ordinance now clearly differentiates between existing and new construction.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi. I am from Milton Georgia!
And for my next joke...

Robert said...

It is hard to believe that the city management and elected leaders of Milton, Georgia can be so ignorant and advocate such backwards regulations on services upon which they depend on everyday life.

It is really stupid to demand some sort of "professional engineer" signoff, or a demand based study on the need for an additional cell tower. Why in the world do these people think a company would invest a couple of hundred thousand bucks to improve their service?

Do they think the proposals are there to annoy the one percent of whiners that don't want a cell tower in their neighborhood.

Their situation is real and inevitable. Poor telephone service because of a lack of competition is certain. Where do these people get their brains?

Anonymous said...

Good for city council there is an election run off and a breaking local news story on a principal getting fired to distract from this issue!!!

Anonymous said...

Robert,

I would respectively say that you do not have all the facts at hand. I too was concerned about this issue, and read the document available from the city website.

1) The requirement for a PE is only in relation to the structure itself. I am sure you would agree that structures of this type should be designed and certified by engineers trained in this field.

2) Cell companies will seek to improve their service if they want to improve market share. It's that simple. The company that builds the tower is not the cell company. It is a private investor seeking a simple ROI on an investment.

3) Of the citizens who attended these meetings, the ratio of support to non-support of the towers was overwhelming. About 1:100.

Is your idea to just let the cell companies do as they please, without being held to any standard of construction or requirement to provide a real need case?

I don't think that Milton suffers from a lack of competition. However, with this ordinance, it won't suffer from a lack of standards.

This information is available from the city website.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: you have no idea what you're talking about. The cell company building the proposed towers in Milton is a telecommunications company and not a private investor.
Your ratio of 1:100 is invalid. Only those that have no lives other than to fight the towers come to the meetings. Those that support the tower are typically rational thinking individuals who understand private property rights and are busy running businesses and families.