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As the old saying goes, “Third time’s the charm.”

Twice during the summer, the Sedona Planning and Zoning Commission delayed a vote regarding the city’s wireless communication master plan. But on Nov. 7, the commission voted unanimously to recommend approval to the Sedona City Council.

Assistant City Manager Karen Osburn apologized for the delay in bringing it back before the commission but explained that this process is a very elaborate one.

“We’ve spent the last several months doing a couple of things,” she said. “We’ve attempted to research, react and respond to some of the comments that came up and what seemed like some consensus on direction or requests to staff for additional information from last meeting. The other thing that took some time was to determine how to integrate the new state law into our wireless ordinance.”

There were several concerns expressed by the commission at the previous two meetings that staff addressed. Some of those included:

  • Limiting tower placement of city-owned sites to at least 100 feet from the boundary of a residential lot.
  • Requiring a report from an radio frequency engineer which certifies that a wireless facility is compliant with FCC regulations.
  • Requiring retesting at some appropriate interval to ensure radio frequency emissions are FCC-compliant.
  • Limiting the duration of a conditional use permit for wireless facilities.
  • Ensuring that noise limitations are properly addressed in the ordinance.
  • Changing the color requirements to be earth tones rather than matching the background.
  • Faux tree towers can be no more than 40 feet high.
  • Removal of five of the 20 city-owned properties as potential cell tower sites.

During this entire process, the commissioners and staff stated many times that due to state and federal laws, most decisions are out of the city’s hands.

“There’s not much we can do,” Chairman Marty Losoff said. One area the city can control is in regard to potential cityowned property in which cell towers may be placed. As part of the their vote, the commission agreed to eliminate a handful of locations.

These include 11 New Castle Lane and 160 Panorama Boulevard due to its residential single-family zoning, 2050 and 2070 Buena Vista Drive and 515 Back O’ Beyond Road because of their proximity to forest land, as well as property at 700 El Camino Drive, which is a wastewater lift station site.

While the city’s communications plan was being researched and written, House Bill 2365, which Osburn referenced, was signed by Gov. Doug Ducey in March. The law states that wireless providers can place towers in the city’s rights of way with no public process, and the city must give them a permit to do this within 20 days of them submitting a complete application.

The poles or towers can be 40 to 50 feet tall with an automatic ability to extend an additional 10 feet after they are built. This new law, coupled with current Federal Communication Commission laws, left many of the commissioners saying that their hands are tied, leaving the city with little say in the matter.

A city report states that it’s been since 2003 that the wireless master plan last underwent a comprehensive update. In the 14 years since, there have been significant changes to wireless technologies and federal legislation.

The update to the ordinance is needed to reflect those changes and ensure that the city’s codes are reflective of modern technology and current federal law.

Federal law mandates that cities, counties and states abide by the following:

  • Must allow for the carriers to deploy their systems.
  • Must act expeditiously in these requests.
  • Must treat providers equally by providing equal access to functionally equivalent services.
  • Local governments’ land development standards may not supersede or undermine areas of federal jurisdiction.
  • Enable federal government to use federal property, rights-of-way and easements for leasing for new telecommunications infrastructure.
  • Requirements for tower lighting and markings are exclusively regulated by the FAA/FCC.

The city’s consultants, CityScape, has said that to date it has found that within Sedona an additional 17 to 25 towers of varying sizes will be needed to keep up with standards and demand over the next 10 years. Currently there are 22 towers in or near the perimeter of the city’s boundaries.

Ron Eland can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 122 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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