Albany City Council voted unanimously March 18 to direct staff, a consultant, and the City’s Planning and Zoning Committee (P&Z), to work (in public meetings) on an analysis of the City's wireless ordinance, with pros and cons of possible revisions.
This direction followed an initial discussion of the feasiblity of wireless facilities on City sites.
Amending Albany’s Wireless Ordinance
The staff report (agenda item 8 – 1 http://albanyca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?event_id=9ff5712b-94e1-102e-b5c3-16ad23a5d22d) provided background about legal challenges and time delays associated with the ordinance, and listed 11 areas for possible amendment:
1. Include new language in the Ordinance referencing Section 6409 of the “Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2012” which requires that the City approve any eligible facilities request for a modification of an existing wireless tower or base station that does not substantially change the physical dimensions of such tower or base station.
2. Determine if restrictions should be lifted to allow wireless facilities in parks and schools which are zoned PF-Public Facilities
3. Determine if the City should permit or prohibit utility pole top antennas in the public right of way (Example: A Distributed Antenna System-a DAS system- requires utility pole for installation)
4. Establish antenna replacement provisions and review procedure
5. Establish ancillary equipment replacement provisions (Ex. Microwave dishes, coaxial cable replacement) and identify the appropriate reviewing body (City staff or the Planning & Zoning Commission)
6. Establish requirements for wireless carriers to submit five year master plans to City detailing anticipated search rings
7. Eliminate the application submittal requirements as part of the City’s Ordinance
8. Refine the concept of preferred zoning districts by simplifying City review in preferred districts
9. Amend roof coverage threshold requirements
10. Simplify findings within the Code
11. Simplify operation, maintenance, and monitoring requirements
About half of the public making comments urged amendments. Others saw harm to the democratic process if revisions were considered. One said no need for change; his family’s cell phones and data connections work fine.
After public comment closed, Councilmembers’ discussed their views. Atkinson and Wile like the ordinance as it is, indicating problems are due to actions by wireless facility applicants. Barnes and Maass expressed interest in exploring changes, with Barnes concerned that some parts of the code may violate federal law.
Mayor Thomsen said she supported consideration of changes, and added that she would like to see Planning and Zoning prepare “pros and cons” of the issues listed in the staff report (and any others raised) so Council could then decide what to do. Wile clarified this would be an analysis, and Atkinson said she liked pros and cons.
Eventually there was a motion by Wile for staff and the consultant to meet with P&Z to prepare an analysis of the ordinance with pros and cons, and possible revisions. It passed unanimously.
Also Discussed: Wireless Facilities on City Sites
Peter Gruchawka, a new consultant to the City of Albany on wireless facility issues, presented information about possible use of City property for wireless facilities. City sites studied were Albany Hill (east side, by bench north of the cross), City Hall, Community Center/Library. Mr. Gruchawka said that the first two sites offered some wireless coverage opportunities, the third site less.
There is no information on whether the coverage opportunities from these sites would meet the coverage needs of carriers. Mr. Gruchawka explained that carriers’ future coverage needs are dependent upon coverage from existing sites; overlapping coverage can cause interference problems. Cities may not require carriers to use specific sites.
Council voted unanimously to ask carriers about their interest in the three City sites.
Ways to Participate in Development of the Pro-Con Analysis
P&Z meets on second and fourth Wednesdays, 7 p.m. at City Hall, and the public is welcome. For those who can't attend in person, live broadcasts are on cable channel 33, also on the City's website for those without cable.
Archived videos are viewable anytime on the City’s website, click KALB on the home page, then Community Media.
To know when this topic is coming up, sign up for emails of P&Z agendas from the City: http://www.albanyca.org/index.aspx?page=19