State College

College Township weighs wireless needs

A cell tower behind the Northland Bowl and Recreation Center in Ferguson Township is disguised as a flag pole. The College Township Council will bring a proposed ordinance in April that could revise the entire wireless regulations for the township.
A cell tower behind the Northland Bowl and Recreation Center in Ferguson Township is disguised as a flag pole. The College Township Council will bring a proposed ordinance in April that could revise the entire wireless regulations for the township. CDT photo

Township Council will bring a proposed ordinance that could revise the wireless communication facilities regulations to a public hearing in April.

The Planning Commission has been working on the ordinance for several months, according to senior planner Mark Holdren.

While referred to as amendments, the changes basically revise the entire wireless regulations for the township, he said. The original ordinance was drafted in 1997.

“Wireless has changed in that time,” he said. “There’s a growing need for data usage and a growing number of users as well.”

Holdren said the township can expect to need additional antennas in the area, allowing for the ordinance to expect and manage that need.

The amended ordinance includes three key changes, he said — permitting wireless facilities in public rights of ways, camouflaging the facilities so they are not visible to the public, and limiting the height of co-located wireless antennas.

Co-located antennas, or antennas attached to an existing structure, within a public right of way would be attached to an existing utility feature, such as a utility pole or a street light, he said. New wireless towers could be installed in these areas as well, but would be limited to a height of 40 feet.

Likewise, he said, co-located antennas would have a height restriction of six feet.

Camouflaging requirements would essentially mask an antenna if it were placed on a building, Holdren said, showing examples of antenna that were hidden in faux chimneys, bell towers and architectural designs.

Co-located antennas would have to be attached to a structure that has existed for at least a year, he said. This would prevent a provider from getting around height restrictions by installing a flag pole, a structure that has no height restrictions, with an antenna hidden in the top.

At this time, he said, antenna would not be allowed on any single-family homes, duplexes or townhouses.

Installation of an antenna could help boost data signals to weaker areas of the township, like Lemont, township Manager Adam Brumbaugh said. That also influenced the decision to include public right of ways.

The township has not been approached by a wireless provider interested in installing an antenna in the township yet, he said, but the amended ordinance anticipates when that day will come.

The hearing is set for April 16.

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