PTC celltower ordinance back to drawing board

Staff to look at allowing new towers in commercial, office zoning

With yet more input on the latest tweaks to proposed rules for new celltowers in Peachtree City, the City Council Thursday night tabled the matter for a second time.

Council also extended the city’s moratorium on new celltower applications while the ordinance is being hammered out. The hope is the final version of the regulations can be presented at the first council meeting in October.

In the meantime, city staff will be probing a suggestion to allow new celltowers on property zoned general commercial and office institutional. The theory is if those categories could host towers, they could be erected perhaps at the city’s village shopping centers and office complexes instead of other more intrusive areas.

The proposed ordinance only would allow new towers on land zoned general industrial, light industrial and open space-public.

The inclusion of open space-public zoning has been assailed by some critics as a big negative since it would allow the city to have celltowers built in city parks and recreation areas.

The ordinance would require most new celltowers to get a conditional use permit, which will require a vote of approval from council, a step not currently in the city’s tower review process. Until the moratorium was enacted earlier this year, tower operators only needed approval of the city’s planning commission with no required appearance before council.

Another aspect of the new ordinance is the requirement of a four-hour balloon test for each proposed new celltower location. During the test, a balloon will be raised to the height of the proposed tower so citizens can see how the tower will fit in with its surroundings.

Balloon tests must be done on a weekend day and also must be advertised in advance with a notice published in the city’s legal organ, the ordinance requires.

The setbacks in the ordinance require that any celltower support structure be 200 feet from any adjoining residential property line, 200 feet from any public right of way and 50 feet from any abutting property not zoned for residential use.

Also, the celltower and support structures must be 250 feet away from any property line abutting a school, daycare or place of worship.

The city also will be limiting tower height to a maximum of 180 feet.

The ordinance will allow new celltowers to be placed on lots zoned light industrial, general industrial and open space-public. They will not be allowed on all other zoning categories including those zoned open space-conservation.

Other changes made at the request of the cellphone industry included:
• The companies will have to notify property owners within a 250 foot radius via letter when a new celltower site is proposed. The previous radius was 1,000 feet; and
• A requirement that each tower have at least two wireless carriers for a new celltower was stricken. Community Development Director David Rast explained that instead new towers will be required to have space for several carriers to use them simultaneously.

The ordinance is being revamped in part because several cellphone companies have said they need new towers in several residential areas to improve service as people are relying on their phones for not just voice calls but also email and Internet access.