ST. PETE BEACH – City leaders are closing in on the final language of a proposed ordinance that would regulate wireless tower permits on city right-of-way.
Commissioners voted unanimously Dec. 12 to extend a moratorium on issuing wireless permits that will give city leaders additional time to hammer out the details of the ordinance. A final version is expected sometime after the first of the year.
The ordinance is necessary to protect the city’s interests following passage of the Advanced Wireless Infrastructure Deployment Act earlier this year by the Florida Legislature. The legislation prevents cities and counties from prohibiting or charging wireless companies for the co-location of small wireless cell towers or micro wireless facilities within the public right-of-way.
The wireless companies need the co-locations for the installation of faster 4G LTE service.
“The legislation that was passed means we cannot prohibit it but we can regulate it,” said City Manager Wayne Saunders in reference to the new, smaller cell towers “So this will give us the additional time we need to come up with an ordinance to bring to you for consideration of regulation of those small towers.”
In most cases, wireless companies want to install the small wireless devices on existing power poles, which led Mayor Al Johnson to question what impact it would have on underground utilities.
“One thing that occurred to me, now that we’re undergrounding utilities, on this co-located stuff in our right-of-way, does that mean they can put stuff on top of the poles we have there, or do they have to put in additional poles?” Johnson asked.
Saunders said most of the municipal ordinances around the state he and City Attorney Andrew Dickman have reviewed require co-location “unless it (poles) is not there.
“That means on top of light poles and that’s the direction we will be going in,” Saunders said. “We want everyone to understand we’re trying to underground a lot of stuff (along Gulf Boulevard). So, some of those poles won’t be there. So, we’ll have some language to address that.”
Saunders said the cell antennas are only about 18 inches in height and transmit to nearby control panels, which “are the big problem everyone is dealing with.”
One of the options, he said, is the possibility of undergrounding the panels.
This article originally ran on tbnweekly.com.