City Council’s Deadline is Today on Small Cell Ordinance

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California

Palo Alto’s city staff and elected officials are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to facing a flood of applications from telecommunications companies, reported Palo Alto Online. The challenge is that new federal rules require staff and officials to speed up the permitting process, making rulings within 60 or 90 days, depending on the technology being installed, while residents want decision makers to pump the brakes.

The City Council, announcing there are at least 100 more sites in the pipeline, will consider creating a new process for approving wireless communication facilities. The FCC is giving the city until April 15 to adopt the new regulations, including making decisions based on aesthetic regulations, that are, “reasonable, objective, non-discriminatory, and published in advance.”

Meanwhile, city leaders are facing pushback from hundreds of residents protesting the small cell infrastructure including concerns over health, aesthetics, and environmental impact. Residents have attended both neighborhood association and planning meetings to voice their concerns regarding restrictions for wireless equipment, including setback requirements in cases where antennas are installed near homes and schools, reported Palo Alto Online.

On April 15, City Council will consider a new wireless facilities ordinance and a set of “objective standards.” According to the department’s report, the ordinance will include four designs for wireless equipment (tiers) that city planning staff believe are, “among the smallest, least conspicuous, camouflaged…design options available.”

But then the carriers pushed back. Verizon and AT&T are both arguing that the proposed rules are too restrictive. The companies are specifically opposing a provision that would create three different tiers for wireless equipment, based on the type of equipment sought, reported Palo Alto Online.

According to Attorney Paul Albritton, who represents AT&T, soliciting public comments, “introduces subjectivity and the illusory impression that personal concerns would override objective standards, frustrating both the public and decision-makers.” This action goes against the FCC’s new regulations from September 2018, requiring officials to make decisions “without the exercise of personal judgment. The public’s subjective personal concerns simply cannot be addressed by decision-makers implementing what must be an objective process,” Albritton wrote.

April 15, 2019

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