City News

Maybe the third time’s the charm.

On June 1, the Sedona Planning and Zoning Commission discussed making a recommendation to the City Council regarding the city’s wireless communications plan.

The commissioners voted to continue that meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 1. But after 90 minutes of discussion and several more questions for staff, they again voted to continue the meeting to a date to be determined later.

And like this most recent meeting, since it is a continuance, there will be no public forum for this item the next time it’s discussed.

Commission Chairman Marty Losoff said he sympathizes with everyone — both his fellow commissioners and the public — when it comes to this matter. He said the city is bound by both federal and now state laws in regard to the placement of cellular towers.

“We’re not here as a commission to argue against or protest the federal government and we can’t even protest state government since the governor has said these towers can go in the city’s rights-of-way,” he said. “It limits our ability as a commission to make recommendations to the council. Our job, as I see it, is to make as much of an impact on a lousy situation as possible.”

The main reason for the continuance is because the commission directed staff to update the ordinance and master plan based on the following requests and bring them back for further consideration:

  • Limit tower placement to at least 100 feet from the boundary of a residential lot.
  • Require a report from a radio frequency engineer which certifies that a wireless facility is compliant with FCC regulations.
  • Require retesting at some appropriate interval to ensure radio frequency emissions are FCC compliant. n Limit the duration of a conditional use permit for wireless facilities.
  • Ensure that noise limitations are properly addressed in the ordinance. n Change 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.

While the city’s communications plan was being researched and written, House Bill 2365 was signed by Gov. Doug Ducey in March.

The law states 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.

“I’ve been agonizing over this topic for the last two months,” Commissioner Randy Barcus said. “I think we need to go forward with recommendations to council for city-owned properties. But I doubt that many, if any, of the [cellphone] carriers will opt to locate towers in those specific areas unless they that’s something they want to do.”

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: n Allow for the carriers to deploy their systems.

  • Act expeditiously in these requests.
  • Treat providers equally by providing equal access to functionally equivalent services.
  • Local government’s 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 they have 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.


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