Companies ask for zoning change to allow cell phone towers in residential areas [Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.]
(Winston-Salem Journal (NC) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 10--AT&T and American Tower Corp. are asking the City-County Planning Board to change ordinances to allow cell phone towers to be placed in areas zoned for single-family residences.
Already, such towers are allowed in areas zoned for industrial, commercial, office and multifamily developments. If the ordinance change is OK'd, companies would be able to ask for permission to put towers in residential areas, something they are barred from doing now.
"They want to have more opportunities to locate towers in residential areas because there's been an increase in demand in those areas," said Kirk Ericson, a project planner for the planning board.
The planning board will hear the case at its meeting today. The board's staff is recommending approval of the petition.
AT&T and American Tower Corp., a wireless infrastructure company, said that the change is needed because of the sharp increase in the number of people using such wireless devices as smartphones.
Liz Hill , director of state and local government affairs for American Tower Corp., said that the driver behind the proposal is consumer demand.
"Folks have the expectation that it will work everywhere," Hill said of wireless service.
Clifton Metcalf, a spokesman for AT&T, said that American Tower and AT&T are trying to work with local policymakers to "update old regulations or ordinances that are really out of date now, that can hinder consumers from really getting the full benefits of the latest wireless technology."
Metcalf declined to give specific locations where AT&T would like to install towers.
"We certainly have plans on what we would like to do within the community to meet our customers' needs, but the first step in being able to begin implementing many of those plans is to be able to submit an application," he said.
The Winston-Salem Neighborhood Alliance has concerns about the proposal.
Eric Bushnell, the alliance's president, said that alliance members believe there should be communitywide discussions about the proposal, particularly to gauge whether people want cell towers in their neighborhoods. The group plans to ask for such meetings.
"Although WSNA and a few other civic groups have been briefed about the industry proposal, these big questions deserve the broadest possible community input," Bushnell said in an email.
The proposed ordinance would have two different review processes for towers, based on the location and type of tower. It calls for specific standards for three types of towers -- concealed, monopole and lattice.
The board's staff analysis found that concealed towers have the least impact on areas surrounding them and allow the broadest range of zoning districts in the proposed ordinance. They don't have exposed antennae and usually look like flagpoles or fake pine trees.
Monopole towers have a single supporting pole with exposed antennae on top.
Lattice towers have the most impact. They have a multisided open structural frame with exposed antennae. They typically reach significant heights and require flashing strobe lights on top.
The proposed ordinance would limit the height of towers.
"Under the current ordinance there are no height limitations and it does not encourage a wireless company to build a concealed tower or a smaller tower," Metcalf said. "The proposed ordinance does both. It sets limits. It actually encourages a concealed or the smaller towers."
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