The city of Troy allows up to four carriers to install antennas on large cell towers, such as this one at Sylvan Glen Golf Course.

The city of Troy allows up to four carriers to install antennas on large cell towers, such as this one at Sylvan Glen Golf Course.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Troy City Council to consider restrictions on wireless towers on city land

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published March 12, 2019

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TROY — The Troy City Council will weigh whether and how to prohibit construction of telecommunication towers on city-owned land after several telecommunication providers asked to increase the number of towers.

At a March 4 City Council study session, City Manager Mark Miller said it is “very common” for the city to be asked if providers may place antennas on city-owned property, which providers say are needed to fill in gaps in coverage and to accommodate 5G technology.

He added that he would expect opposition from residents to the placement of larger, or macro, cell towers in city parks.

The 5G technology relies on smaller towers placed closer together and high-frequency waves that support faster wireless speeds.

Antennas to facilitate 5G, or fifth-generation cellular technology, are smaller than those in current use and are able to be installed on smaller sites. They are referred to as micro or small-cell wireless facilities.

According to the Verizon website, verizon.com, 5G would mean quicker downloads and “outstanding” network reliability. “The connectivity benefits of 5G will make businesses more efficient and give consumers access to more information faster than ever before. Super-connected autonomous cars, smart communities ... immersive education — they all will rely on 5G.”

Some have concerns that 5G technology brings health risks and radiation.

According to the National Cancer Institute, “Exposure to ionizing radiation, such as from X-rays, is known to increase the risk of cancer. However, although many studies have examined the potential health effects of nonionizing radiation from radar, microwave ovens, cellphones and other sources, there is currently no consistent evidence that nonionizing radiation increases cancer risk in humans.”

Miller pointed out to C & G Newspapers that federal law prohibits municipalities from regulating telecommunication towers due to health concerns.

“All the providers are calling us to try to set towers in parks,” he said.  “The council has to answer the question on using city property for telecommunication towers.”

 

New legislation
Also at issue is Michigan Public Act 365, approved by legislators in late 2018 and which took effect March 12, known as the “small wireless communications facilities deployment act.”

The new state law allows wireless communications providers to construct their own smaller poles in state, county and city rights of way and to attach to existing poles and structures in public rights of way without express permission from the municipalities, the state or the county.

Under the new law, providers must pay cities, states or counties $20 per year for attaching micro wireless facilities to existing poles and $125 per year to construct a new pole.

Twenty dollars per year is a tiny amount, said Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm to the council. “It does not cover our (maintenance) costs and subsidizes the industry.”

She said the new law does allow municipalities to enact “reasonable restrictions.”

Public Works Director Kurt Bovensiep said there are two city-owned wireless communication towers in Troy and 16 privately owned towers. None are in city parks.

Bovensiep said those providers approached the city, stating there was a lack of coverage. The providers lease the properties from the city for about $20,000 each per year.

Up to four carriers may use one pole.

Planning Director R. Brent Savidant said that macro wireless telecommunication towers are not permitted in residential districts and are permitted by special use in some, but not all, commercial zoning districts. Under current city guidelines, a 120-foot macro tower must have a 120-foot setback in all directions.

“Most of the city of Troy does not permit free-standing (macro) cell towers,” he said to the council.

“We still have to have more infrastructure to keep up with the demand,” attorney Wally Haley — who represents wireless telecommunication clients — told the council.

He explained that 5G is a “faster way of processing large amounts of data.”

Haley said there are some areas in Troy with gaps in coverage.

“Autonomous driving will take the whole thing off the map,” he said. “We don’t know how close signals need to be.”

“I think we need more discussion,” said Troy Mayor Dane Slater. “I don’t think I can say put them in parks. I think it’s pretty obvious we need a policy.”

Grigg Bluhm said city staff will gather more information to draft language for an ordinance on the micro telecommunication towers to present for council review in the coming weeks.

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