Stringent cell tower regulations proposed

ORANGE-Following a series of planning meetings over the past few months, the Plan and Zoning Commission unanimously passed proposed guidelines, tightening existing regulations for wireless telecommunication sites, facilities and services.

Requiring an application fee of $5000 chairman Michael Paolini justified his recommendation for the high compensation.

"This fee is substantially higher than any common zoning application fee, however, once a cellular tower is located on a piece of property, that property is permanently devalued and essentially will not have any other occupant on it. I see no reason why the cellular communication company should not be held financially responsible for the use of that property since by Federal law we cannot stop them from coming into the town," Paolini said.

Regulations which will be discussed at a public hearing at 8:00 p.m. on June 6 follow guidelines from the Telecommunications Act of 1996, have been designed to protect neighborhoods in Orange and minimize adverse visual and recreational effects.

Once passed, the regulation will maximize the use of existing and approved towers, encourage providers to co-locate on a single tower, decrease the number of antennas and minimize the location of facilities in visually and earth friendly areas.

Further the stringent regulations will protect the historic areas.

Town owned property and buildings must be considered first according to the proposed guidelines followed by existing structures such as high buildings, smoke stacks and water towers.

If an applicant believes the only location for its tower is in a residential district, strict guidelines for approval must be met. Including; at least 200 feet of frontage, a minimum of 80,000 square feet per tower exclusive of all other uses and a maximum height including antenna of 199 feet.

General requirements for cellular structures include; not locating them within 200 feet of an existing dwelling or school building or within 125% of the demonstrated and proved fall zone for the proposed tower and building.

Towers may not be located within 200 feet of the boundary of an existing approved historic district or a site on the national registry of historic places.

Lights may not be mounted on towers unless required by the FAA or other laws.

Towers may not be used as billboards displaying commercial signs, all towers designed must be able to accommodate at least three additional users if over 150 feet in height, or for at least two other users if between 100 and 150 feet or one additional user if between 50 and 100 feet.

Paolini said he encourages other municipalities to strengthen its laws.

"I encourage every municipality to charge what they feel is a significant enough fee to make up for the loss of the use of land," Paolini said.

The regulations have been sent to the Valley regional Planning Authority for their required approval prior to the public hearing.