Commissioners to vote on telecommunication ordinance
CENTREVILLE — The Queen Anne’s Board of County Commissioners will vote on Ordinance 16-06 concerning the requirements for conditional use approval for telecommunications facilities in the county now that it has completed a public hearing regarding the matter during the Tuesday, June 28, meeting.
The commission will vote on the ordinance at its Tuesday, July 12, meeting beginning at 9 a.m. in the Liberty Building in Centreville.
The text amendment changes the number of required legal lease agreements needed for a cell phone tower company to lease space on its tower from two providers to one provider. If approved, the owner of a cell phone tower needs only one service carrier lease agreement to receive a building permit to construct a cellular tower.
Joseph Stevens, attorney with the Law Offices of Stevens Palmer, LLC, representing TowerCo 2013, LLC, which requested the text amendment, said requiring two cellular carriers to sign a tower lease before the building permit is approved worked in the 1990s but is antiquated in today’s setting.
That section of the code, Stevens said, worked when towers were popping up left and right throughout the county as carriers built the towers and didn’t let other providers on it, so requiring two lease agreements helped minimize the total number of towers.
“And the result is really that these rural areas weren’t getting covered,” Stevens said. “And with all the new data going on you need more coverage, and so there were these areas where coverage wasn’t happening in the county.”
TowerCo, which builds and manages tower sites throughout the United States, previously received approval to build a tower but were unable to attract two providers. Stevens said the lease agreement is with Verizon. Steven’s said TowerCo plans to build towers in the area in the future, so rather than going to the board of appeals asking for a variance on each tower it requested a text amendment decreasing the number of carriers needed.
“The most important thing I think in the staff report that the planning commission and the board determined was they don’t need the two lease requirement in order to minimize the number of towers that go up in the county,” Stevens said. “There’s another four or five requirements that make you co-locate before the board of appeals can approve a tower. So it’s not needed and what it was doing was really deterring coverage in rural areas.”
The county’s planning commission unanimously recommended approval of the text amendment.
Jason Catalini, vice president of collocation and real estate for TowerCo, said within the past 16 years the cellular data industry has evolved where large independent tower companies that are publicly traded build and manage tower sites rather than the carriers building them. He said the tower companies’ main goal is to minimize the number of towers in an area because it wants to maximize the amount of providers on those towers.
“If you build a site and Verizon goes on it, AT&T will obviously want to keep their customers happy and so forth,” Catalini said. “So really this text amendment is in essence eliminating a provision that is no longer required in this day and age versus several years ago ... and had carriers building their own sites and they were not, in essence, playing well together in the sandbox.”
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Joseph Stevens, attorney with Stevens Palmer, LLC, speaks June 28 to the Queen Anne’s Board of County Commissioners during a public hearing regarding ordinance 16-06.