Vote postponed on new PTC cell tower rules

Commission wants City Attorney review of ordinance before vote

The addition of more restrictions to potential new cellphone towers in Peachtree City will have to wait a little longer.

A new proposed ordinance was reviewed by the planning commission Monday night, but commissioners postponed a vote on the ordinance.

The postponement will allow the ordinance, and various written comments from the wireless industry, to be reviewed by City Attorney Ted Meeker.

So it’s likely that Thursday night the Peachtree City Council will vote to extend the current moratorium on new cellphone towers for a month in order to create the extra time needed.

The new ordinance would require all new cell towers and similar telecommunications structures to get final approval from the City Council.

Currently, as long as new cell towers are located in the allowed zoning districts and meet city regulations, they do not require council approval.

City staff is proposing to eliminate current regulations that allow for cell towers to be built on land zoned either agriculture reserve or open space-conservation. Instead, such towers could only be built on land zoned light industrial, general industrial or open space-public.

Resident Mary Giles told the commission that she opposed allowing towers at city recreation facilities, all of which are zoned open space-public.

The ordinance also bumps up the distance a tower must be away from an adjacent property line from 200 to 250 feet.

The ordinance also lowers the maximum height of any tower from 199 to 180 feet, as measured from the ground level to the highest point on the proposed structure.

One of the new requirements of the ordinance is for the companies to conduct a visual impact assessment including a balloon test to demonstrate the height of the proposed tower and support facilities. The balloon must be flown for at least eight hours between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. with the date, time and location of the balloon test made public in a legal advertisement.

Also during the balloon test the wireless company will be required to take photos of the balloon from approximately 200 feet away, with at least four views from the north, south, east and west.

The balloon test is required to be scheduled at first on a weekend, but if it visibility interferes with the test it can be rescheduled to a weekday.

Jen Blackburn, an attorney for Verizon Wireless, said the new ordinance and restrictions would leave the company with no available options to locate a new cell phone tower in an area in which the company needs to enhance its coverage.

Commissioner Lynda Wojcik suggested city staff look into allowing cell towers on commercial sites of large acreage such as 25 acres or more, but not all commercially-zoned sites.

Community Development Director David Rast said that would be something the city could look at in the future, but he is hopeful the city will be able to find some sites for new cell towers that meet the companies’ needs and also meet the new setback requirements.

Several planning commissioners noted there has not been an outcry from many residents or businesses complaining about problems with cellular or wireless service.

The commission’s vote on the matter is one of recommendation only. The final say on the ordinance rests with the City Council.

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