Board of supervisors consider new rules regulating mini-cell phone poles, residential solar energy panels
LOWER MAKEcIELD - The board of supervisors is moving ahead with plans to eventually draw up laws to regulate miniature cell phone towers and solar panels on residential property in the township.
In a pair of 4-0 votes at the March 20 board meeting, the supervisors gave the go ahead to township committees to look at other municipal ordinances covering the installation and placement of wireless communications and solar power in order to speFLfiFDOOy WDLORU RUGLnDnFHs IRU LRwHU 0DNHfiHOG.
At issue is what are known as ‘cell poles,’ those miniature wireless and cell antennas atop telephone poles and street lights, which are different than the traditional 150-foot-tall cell towers that grace the landscape.
According to township solicitor Jeffrey Garton, companies that install these cellpoles, which are technically called a Distributed Antenna System (DASF, want to be regulated by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUCF so they do not have to be bound by local zoning rules.
Garton explained that the antennas are placed on utility poles in the public right of way because state laws prohibit local governments, and even PennDOT, from interfering with roadside utility installations.
The issue of cell poles surfaced last year when Northampton Township residents complained that these cell antennas are unsightly and should not be permitted in residential areas that have underground utilities.
Last June, Northampton reached a compromise with the cell poles owner, American Tower Corp., which agreed install future DAS equipment underground.
In cebruary, Northampton adopted an ordinance to regulate the devices, and Garton recommended that Lower 0DNHfiHOG RIfiFLDOs ORRN DW what Northampton is doing.
“You should begin discussions to get behind the eight ball,” he urged.
At Garton’s urging, the supervisors voted to instructed the township’s Electronic Media Advisory Board, as well as the planning commission, to look at what other municipalities are doing about cell poles, and how to best regulate them.
“Everything is underground,” said Supervisor Chairman Pete Stainthorpe, referring to where utilities are placed in most of the town- ship. “You don’t want this in your front yard.”
“All the companies want this to go before the PUC and federal agencies so it doesn’t have to come before us,” he added.
cearing a similar problem in Newtown, township supervisors there opted last month WR MRLn 8SSHU 0DNHfiHOG DnG Wrightstown in hiring an attorney who specializes in communications law to help draft an ordinance to be approved by the three municipalities which are part of a joint zoning agreement.
Newtown has already received several applications from American Tower Corp. to place DAS equipment there.
Meanwhile, Lower MakefiHOG suSHUYLsRUs Rn 0DUFK 20 also approved looking into how to regulate the installation of residential solar energy panels.
“You don’t want somebody putting up 40 foot panels in their front yards,” warned Garton.
“It’s only intended as a zoning component,” he stated, “covering size and safety.”
Garton noted that neighboring townships are also considering implementing ordinances regulating these devices.
He said that there is some disagreement between NewWRwn DnG 8SSHU 0DNHfiHOG Townships, which are part of the joint zoning, as to the location of the panels. At issue is whether they should be placed on the front of the roof, or on the back to be away from neighbors’ view.
“They have to be put in places where they can be most effective,” Garton explained. “These are the kind of conflLFWLnJ LssuHs WKDW FRPH uS.”
The supervisors approved sending the issue to the township’s Environmental Advi- sory Council and the planning commission so that other municipalities’ ordinances can be examined before proposing RnH IRU LRwHU 0DNHfiHOG.
The supervisors said that they hoped to receive recommendations on both issues by this summer.
Also at the March 20 meeting, the supervisors honored the Pennsbury High School Girls Cross Country Team for winning the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAAF Class AAA championship in 2012.
It’s the third straight year that Pennsbury has won the WLWOH, DnG WKH fiUsW WLPH WKDW D Class AAA school has ever won three championships since the PIAA was formed in 19TT.
The team also placed ninth in last year’s Nike National Cross Nationals held in Portland, Ore.
“In the township police report you also see a lot of kids making bad decisions,” Stainthorpe said, “it’s nice to see kids doing good things.”
Stainthorpe told the team that the board is preparing a proclamation plaque so that it can be displayed in the school’s trophy cabinet.
Jason Simon, a board member with the Pennsbury Athletic Association (PAAF, also spoke with the supervisors about the group’s concerns that one of the two new ball fiHOGs wKLFK wLOO EH EuLOW DW the Samost tract on Edgewood Road might have an RuWfiHOG wLWK WRR JUHDW RI D slope.
Simon, who is the PAA’s liaison with the township, said that the 10-foot decline beWwHHn WKH OHIW DnG ULJKW fiHOG IRuO SROHs “Ls sLJnLfiFDnW,” and could affect the way the EDOO Ls SODyHG Ey RuWfiHOGHUs.
Township engineer Mark Eisold pointed out that the slope is between two and twoand-a-half percent, less than the three percent maximum allowed under Babe Ruth LHDJuH sSHFLfiFDWLRns.
Drainage is also an issue if WKH fiHOG Ls nRW sORSHG SURSerly, and has been a past problem other township-owned EDOO fiHOGs.
The supervisors said that the township engineer and the Park and Recreation Board must still look over the plans IRU WKH nHw fiHOGs EHIRUH WKH construction bid is advertised.
“We want to ensure that they are built right,” Simon noted, “the opportunity to get WKLs ULJKW Ls PRUH sLJnLfiFDnW than timing.”
The township has set aside A585,000 of a A2-million state grant for the Samost ball fiHOGs DFURss IURP WKH PunLFLpal complex.
However, the construction bids are expected to come in slightly higher.
Also at the supervisors’ meeting, project director Timothy Philpot of Pennsbury LYcT, a community-based prevention program, updated WKH ERDUG Rn WKH nRn-SURfiW group’s efforts to reduce alcohol and substance abuse in WKH LRwHU 0DNHfiHOG, YDUGley, calls Township and Tullytown area.
According to Philpot, the effects of underage drinking cost Pennsylvanians roughly A2.1-billion in 2010 in mediFDO FDUH, ORsW wRUN, WUDIfiF accidents and other related issue.
Philpot said that one of LYcT’s primary goals is to reach out to parents to speak with their children about not drinking alcohol.
“Believe it or not the messages that parents give actually do sink in,” he maintained.
The next regularly scheduled supervisors’ meeting is April 3.