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SARASOTA COUNTY GOVERNMENT Planning and Development Services
TO: Sarasota County Commission
THROUGH: Thomas A. Harmer, County Administrator
FROM: Matthew R. Osterhoudt, Interim Director, Planning and Development Services
Allen Parsons, Planning Division Manager
DATE: November 22, 2016
SUBJECT: Six-Month Moratorium on the Permitting or Construction of Communications Facilities Taller than Thirty-Five Feet in the Right-of-Way
RECOMMENDED MOTION(S) OR ACTION(S):
(Public hearing) To adopt Ordinance No. 2016-080, establishing a moratorium on new construction or installation of communications tower facilities over 35 feet in the right of way for a period of six months, or until the County Commission rescinds the moratorium Ordinance, whichever is shorter.
Sarasota County recently received 11 permit applications as part of an alternative method of delivery of communications services known as “small cell” or “distributed antennae systems” (sc/DAS). The proposed 11 towers range between 75 to 120 feet in height and they are located at various intersection locations in the public right of way throughout the unincorporated area of the County, west of the interstate (I-75). This new type of communications technology in public right of way (or otherwise) has not been previously approved by the County.
County staff’s initial review of the 11 applications has identified numerous safety, structural, legal, procedural, and permitting concerns. The implications of these issues are amplified given the location in the public right of way. Further, all 11 tower requests would require the processing of individual special exception petitions under the County’s Telecommunication Tower and Facilities and Zoning Ordinances as they are greater than 35 feet in height, all of which would be considered individually by the County Commission (Board).
A temporary moratorium on communications facilities over 35 feet in height in the public right of way will provide the County the opportunity to review existing County ordinances, learn from what other communities have experienced, and ensure there is a regulatory framework that adequately considers and addresses the implications of these facilities.
RELEVANT PRIOR BOARD ACTION: 1. April 7, 1998 – The Board adopted Ordinance No. 98-001, Telecommunications Tower and Facilities Ordinance (5-0 vote).
2. November 9, 2005 – The Board adopted Ordinance No. 2005-047, updating the Ordinance to reflect current standards (5-0 vote).
3. June 5, 2013 – The Board adopted Ordinance No. 2013-001, establishing tower setback distances from residential property and roadways with scenic highway designations (5-0 vote).
4. April 21, 2015 – The Board adopted Ordinance No. 2015-008, establishing that towers that existed prior to the adoption of the 2050 Overlay may continue to exist provided they are shown on a Master Development Plan (5-0 vote).
5. November 8, 2016 – The Board approved Authorization to Advertise the public hearing for a temporary moratorium on the permitting or construction of Communications Facilities over 35 feet in height in the public right of way (5-0 vote).
The proposed sc/DAS tower permit applications involve the installation of new cell tower type technology referred to as Hybrid Transport System facilities. There are two basic types of outdoor DAS (oDAS) antenna nodes:
• One type that attaches to existing structures (e.g. poles); and • Single-monopole type towers between 75 and 120 feet in height.
In regards to the 11 tower requests, all of them are the single-monopole type towers. Specifically, nine of the proposed communication towers are between 75 and 78 feet in height and two proposed towers 120 feet in height. The locations of these proposed towers are at various intersection locations in the public right of way throughout County, west of I-75.
At this time, there is not a clear understanding of how many of these towers will be proposed throughout the County as part of the communications system and where they will be needed. When considering the numerous technical issues identified by staff regarding the 11 applications and the unknown scope of impact across the County, it is important for the County to consider interim oversight of the proliferation of these facilities.
Comparable Jurisdictions Staff has contacted several jurisdictions (both municipal and county) within the state to inquire whether they have received such similar permitting requests, and if so, how they have handled such requests. Staff also inquired whether they have regulations and/or procedures in place to handle such requests. Most of the cities and counties contacted have few regulations or processes/procedures in place to
handle requests to install this technology within their jurisdictions, whether in public road right of ways or otherwise.
Several jurisdictions have either had, are considering (or discussing alternatives in-house), or have placed moratoriums in effect on the acceptance of new telecommunication facilities applications for the Hybrid Transport System facilities. For example: • Manatee County placed a moratorium in effect on September 13, 2016; • City of North Port placed a moratorium in effect on July 26, 2016; • Miami Beach had a moratorium in place from October to December, 2014 and they now have regulations in place to process permits for the new hybrid technology; • Charlotte County is considering placing a moratorium; and • Lee and Collier Counties do not have moratoriums in place.
The Board approved a waiver of the requirement for a Planning Commission public hearing at their November 8, 2016, meeting.
Staff is recommending a six-month moratorium to provide the minimum time period necessary for Planning and Development Services to complete an analysis of any communications facilities in the right-of-way in the unincorporated area of the County, and to make recommendations to the Board regarding an ordinance that regulates them.
Staff recommends the Board approve an ordinance placing a six-month moratorium on new construction or installation of communications tower facilities in the right-of-way, or until the Board rescinds the moratorium Ordinance, whichever is shorter.
ATTACHMENTS: 1. Ordinance No. 2016-080, Temporary Moratorium 2. Ordinance Impact Statement 3. Public Hearing Notice