Recently, several constituents have contacted me about a proposed T-Mobile cell phone tower installation at NE 31st and Prescott. Construction was begun on private property, and then halted due to expired permits. I'd like to clear up some of the confusion around this installation, and provide some info about the public process that will follow.
This is not an actual cell tower--the proposal is to install a wireless antenna on top of an existing utility pole. The construction on private property is for the equipment box that is associated with the antenna.
There are two permit processes through the city involved in this instance. One, for the utility box that is being installed on private property and the other for the antenna that T-Mobile intends to install atop a nearby, existing utility pole.
There were permits issued for utility box in 2007/2008, but they had expired by the time that the contractor began their work earlier this year. Thus, the stop-work order from the city. The Office of Cable Communications and Franchise Management oversees the process for the utility pole, which is in the public right-of-way. The box being constructed on private property is handled by the City's Bureau of Development Services and does not involve a public process.
Since the original permits were issued, City Council put in place a new public notification and hearing process for wireless installations in the public right-of-way that hadn't existed when the original permits were issued (this is why neighbors did not receive notification at that time). Now that these rules are in place, T-Mobile will have to follow them in order to receive new permits for this installation.
Before they can apply for their permits, T-Mobile must hold a neighborhood meeting where residents can ask any questions that they want, and suggest alternative placements for the utility box and antenna. They will have to send notification of this meeting no less than 14 days before it is to happen, and these notifications must be sent to the neighborhood association, local business association, and neighborhood coalition, as well as all residents and property owners within 400 feet of the proposed site. At the meeting, they'll have to explain their proposal and provide photographs simulating how the utility pole will look with the attached antenna.
If T-Mobile chooses to proceed, they'll have to address the public input they received in their application, and their response to it.
Unfortunately, Federal law prohibits the city or any local jurisdiction from outright denying the ability of a wireless carrier to place this equipment. The city is not allowed to consider human health effects, or property values. The city can, however, require T-Mobile to follow the public notification and hearing process, as well as ensure that any equipment involved will operate under existing noise tolerance levels that are established and monitored by the city.
At this point, T-Mobile cannot move forward with additional work until they have notified the neighbors and held the public meeting. I have asked T-Mobile to notify my office as well, so that I can publicize the meeting in the newsletter.