Cell Tower Regulation Review

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Albemarle County has been working on a project to study the County’s cell tower and cell pole (personal wireless facility) regulations.

The County's project team shared the initial draft ordinance during a work session with the Planning Commission and then received community feedback via a survey tool. The survey received over 700 responses. Review the survey results.

The project team incorporated the Planning Commission and community feedback and prepared a revised draft ordinance. View the revised draft ordinance.

The revisions include:

  • The language to incorporate federal and state regulations, including small cell facilities, has been updated.
    • This language is being added to remain compliant with federal and state regulations. The County was already complying with these regulations and including them within the ordinance will not result in any changes in processes or the types of facilities permitted.
  • By-right height of administratively reviewed towers (called Tier II, aka treetop towers) has increased from 10 feet to 30 feet above the tallest tree within 25 feet of the tower.
    • This change is proposed based on the results of the survey. The change in height may result in increased visibility of the tower. Taller facilities typically have greater coverage areas and may allow for multiple providers to be located on the same tower.
  • Agricultural/Forestal Districts will not be classified as an avoidance area. Avoidance areas are areas where administrative approval of towers is not permitted.
    • This change is proposed based on the results of the survey. By removing Agricultural/Forestal Districts as a defined avoidance area, towers may be approved in these areas. Towers within Agricultural/Forestal Districts must also be reviewed by the Agricultural/Forestal Districts Advisory Committee. This ordinance change would not remove or change the requirement that towers within Agricultural/Forestal Districts be reviewed by the Advisory Committee.
  • Administrative approval of Tier II towers when more than 3 towers are clustered together will be allowed.
    • This change is proposed based on the results of the survey. This change would allow groupings of Tier II towers to be approved administratively. This may allow for more facilities in a single location and may result in increased visibility.
  • The limitation on the number of arrays attached to a tower has been removed.
    • This change is proposed based on the results of the survey and past actions by the Board of Supervisors to increase the number of permitted arrays. This change may allow for more than three providers on a single tower. An increase in the number of arrays may increase visibility.
  • Size restrictions on antennas have been removed.
    • This change is proposed based on the results of the survey and past actions by the Board of Supervisors to allow larger antennas. The use of larger antennas may allow for more coverage and increased system capacity. An increase in antenna size may increase visibility.
  • Limitations on the projection of antennas from the face of the tower (also called the standoff) have been removed.
    • This change is proposed based on the results of the survey and past actions by the Board of Supervisors to allow antennas to project from the face of the tower greater than 18 inches. The use of greater standoff may allow for an increase in the number of providers on a tower and may allow for increased coverage and system capacity. A greater standoff may increase visibility.
  • Limitations on the diameter of the monopole towers have been removed.
    • This change is based on the results of the survey. Increase tower diameter may allow for wider and therefore stronger towers. This allows the tower to have a higher loading capacity. This may permit larger antenna, more antenna and antenna arrays with greater standoff resulting in greater coverage and increased capacity. The use of larger diameter towers may result in increased visibility.

What's Next?

We are asking for written comments on the proposed ordinance by December 15, 2023. You can submit comments in the feedback form below or email comments directly to Albemarle County Development Process Manager Bill Fritz at bfritz@albemarle.org.

The proposed ordinance will be scheduled for a public hearing with the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. Dates for those meetings have not been set.

All written comments will be shared with the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. In addition to the written comments, you may provide comments at the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings.



View the current cell tower application, review the checklist and definitions here. The current ordinance is available here.

Have questions? Email or call Bill Fritz, an Albemarle County Development Process Manager, at bfritz@albemarle.org or (434) 296-5823 ext. 3242.


What is the County Reviewing?

The current zoning ordinance regulates antenna size, antenna mounting standards, tower diameter, and a variety of other physical attributes of a facility. The ordinance also has differing review procedures depending on the height of the facility, location within avoidance areas, or attachment to existing structures.

Potential topics to be reviewed during the process include antenna size, mounting standards, areas that can or cannot be built on, and design standards in areas with poor phone coverage.

Why Review the Regulations?

The County adopted a policy for personal wireless facilities (also known as cell towers) in 2000 and regulations in 2004. The policy has not been revisited since 2000 and updates to the regulations have been largely limited to addressing changes in technology, court actions, and changes in state and federal regulations. This review of regulations is the first comprehensive review in 20 years.

Timeline

November/December 2023: Community feedback on the draft ordinance will be collected until December 15, 2023

Winter 2024: Final revisions of the proposed ordinance in response to comments received from the public.

Late Winter 2024: Planning Commission Public Hearing

Spring 2024: Board of Supervisors Public Hearing

Albemarle County has been working on a project to study the County’s cell tower and cell pole (personal wireless facility) regulations.

The County's project team shared the initial draft ordinance during a work session with the Planning Commission and then received community feedback via a survey tool. The survey received over 700 responses. Review the survey results.

The project team incorporated the Planning Commission and community feedback and prepared a revised draft ordinance. View the revised draft ordinance.

The revisions include:

  • The language to incorporate federal and state regulations, including small cell facilities, has been updated.
    • This language is being added to remain compliant with federal and state regulations. The County was already complying with these regulations and including them within the ordinance will not result in any changes in processes or the types of facilities permitted.
  • By-right height of administratively reviewed towers (called Tier II, aka treetop towers) has increased from 10 feet to 30 feet above the tallest tree within 25 feet of the tower.
    • This change is proposed based on the results of the survey. The change in height may result in increased visibility of the tower. Taller facilities typically have greater coverage areas and may allow for multiple providers to be located on the same tower.
  • Agricultural/Forestal Districts will not be classified as an avoidance area. Avoidance areas are areas where administrative approval of towers is not permitted.
    • This change is proposed based on the results of the survey. By removing Agricultural/Forestal Districts as a defined avoidance area, towers may be approved in these areas. Towers within Agricultural/Forestal Districts must also be reviewed by the Agricultural/Forestal Districts Advisory Committee. This ordinance change would not remove or change the requirement that towers within Agricultural/Forestal Districts be reviewed by the Advisory Committee.
  • Administrative approval of Tier II towers when more than 3 towers are clustered together will be allowed.
    • This change is proposed based on the results of the survey. This change would allow groupings of Tier II towers to be approved administratively. This may allow for more facilities in a single location and may result in increased visibility.
  • The limitation on the number of arrays attached to a tower has been removed.
    • This change is proposed based on the results of the survey and past actions by the Board of Supervisors to increase the number of permitted arrays. This change may allow for more than three providers on a single tower. An increase in the number of arrays may increase visibility.
  • Size restrictions on antennas have been removed.
    • This change is proposed based on the results of the survey and past actions by the Board of Supervisors to allow larger antennas. The use of larger antennas may allow for more coverage and increased system capacity. An increase in antenna size may increase visibility.
  • Limitations on the projection of antennas from the face of the tower (also called the standoff) have been removed.
    • This change is proposed based on the results of the survey and past actions by the Board of Supervisors to allow antennas to project from the face of the tower greater than 18 inches. The use of greater standoff may allow for an increase in the number of providers on a tower and may allow for increased coverage and system capacity. A greater standoff may increase visibility.
  • Limitations on the diameter of the monopole towers have been removed.
    • This change is based on the results of the survey. Increase tower diameter may allow for wider and therefore stronger towers. This allows the tower to have a higher loading capacity. This may permit larger antenna, more antenna and antenna arrays with greater standoff resulting in greater coverage and increased capacity. The use of larger diameter towers may result in increased visibility.

What's Next?

We are asking for written comments on the proposed ordinance by December 15, 2023. You can submit comments in the feedback form below or email comments directly to Albemarle County Development Process Manager Bill Fritz at bfritz@albemarle.org.

The proposed ordinance will be scheduled for a public hearing with the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. Dates for those meetings have not been set.

All written comments will be shared with the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. In addition to the written comments, you may provide comments at the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings.



View the current cell tower application, review the checklist and definitions here. The current ordinance is available here.

Have questions? Email or call Bill Fritz, an Albemarle County Development Process Manager, at bfritz@albemarle.org or (434) 296-5823 ext. 3242.


What is the County Reviewing?

The current zoning ordinance regulates antenna size, antenna mounting standards, tower diameter, and a variety of other physical attributes of a facility. The ordinance also has differing review procedures depending on the height of the facility, location within avoidance areas, or attachment to existing structures.

Potential topics to be reviewed during the process include antenna size, mounting standards, areas that can or cannot be built on, and design standards in areas with poor phone coverage.

Why Review the Regulations?

The County adopted a policy for personal wireless facilities (also known as cell towers) in 2000 and regulations in 2004. The policy has not been revisited since 2000 and updates to the regulations have been largely limited to addressing changes in technology, court actions, and changes in state and federal regulations. This review of regulations is the first comprehensive review in 20 years.

Timeline

November/December 2023: Community feedback on the draft ordinance will be collected until December 15, 2023

Winter 2024: Final revisions of the proposed ordinance in response to comments received from the public.

Late Winter 2024: Planning Commission Public Hearing

Spring 2024: Board of Supervisors Public Hearing

Page last updated: 15 Dec 2023, 11:59 PM