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 Wireless Communications Facilities

Resolution of the
Mendocino County Planning Commission
Adopting Guidelines for the
Develpoment of Wireless Communications Facilities


WHEREAS, the purpose and intent of this resolution is to provide a uniform and comprehensive set of guidelines for the development, operation, and maintenance of wireless communications facilities consistent with applicable federal regulations. The guidelines are designed to protect and promote public health, safety, community welfare, and the aesthetic quality of the county, and to minimize the adverse impacts of wireless communications facilities, in conformity with goals and policies of the General Plan, while providing for the communications needs of residents, business, visitors and government within Mendocino County. It is the intent of the Planning Commission that these guidelines be followed to the greatest extent possible, recognizing that exceptions may be warranted by circumstances unique to specific applications, and

WHEREAS, the increasing number of wireless communications facilities has significant potential for beneficial and detrimental impacts within Mendocino County. Wireless communications facilities are a vital link in the local emergency response network and in the general communications needs of residents, businesses, visitors and government within Mendocino County. Structures associated with wireless communications facilities, including antennas, antenna towers, lighting, equipment shelters, generators, fences and access roads can interfere with views, natural vegetation, quiet seclusion, scenic values and rural quality of life. The cumulative effect of numerous facilities being developed by competing communication services providers can create unnecessary visual impacts through the development of separate redundant facilities, and

WHEREAS, wireless communications facilities shall be sited and designed to minimize adverse impacts on communities, neighborhoods, vistas, and natural resources to protect public health, safety and welfare, and

WHEREAS, guidelines for communications facilities permit applications are needed to ensure consistent evaluation and uniform application of standards which are in compliance with the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which states that the county "…shall not unreasonably discriminate among providers of functionally equivalent services…".

WHEREAS, the adoption of these guidelines is exempt from the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as a Class 8 exemption consisting of an action taken to assure the maintenance, restoration, enhancement or protection of the environment where the regulatory process involves procedures for protection of the environment,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the following guidelines are adopted to guide the evaluation of applications for, and the development, operation, and maintenance of wireless communications facilities.

(A) Application submittal requirements: An application for a use permit for a wireless communications facility shall include the following materials and information:


(1)

A map showing the location of the proposed facility in relation to commonly identifiable landmarks such as towns and highways.


(2)

A map showing the boundaries of the parcel on which the proposed communications facility is to be located, including all contiguous lands held by the same owner, and the location of the proposed facility and existing improvements on the parcel. "Parcel" means a separate parcel of land created in compliance with state laws and county ordinances, not just an area of land being leased by a communications provider.


(3)

A site plan drawn to scale showing all components of the proposed facility, including towers, buildings, generators, fuel tanks, fencing, parking areas, access roads, utility lines, grading, tree removal and proposed new vegetation.


(4)

Elevation drawings of the site and facility drawn to scale showing ground elevations and relative heights of structures and trees within 200 feet of the proposed facility, and specifying materials and colors of proposed structures.


(5) A description of the facility that includes:



(a)

The types of services to be provided by the applicant to its customers.



(b)

The numbers, types and dimensions of antennas and other equipment to be installed.



(c)

The power rating for all antennas and equipment.



(d)

A statement that the system by itself, and in conjunction with other facilities in the vicinity, will conform to radio frequency radiation emission standards adopted by the FCC.



(e)

Capacity of the site and facility to accommodate expansion through co-location.


(6)

A map showing the locations of all other existing and proposed antennas included in the applicant’s system for provision of service within Mendocino County, showing the approximate area served by each antenna.


(7)

A map showing the locations of all other wireless communications facilities subject to a use permit within five miles of the proposed facility.


(8)

Evidence of ownership or authorization for use of the proposed site. Applicant shall not enter into a lease that precludes possible co-location.


(9)

Evidence of easements or other authorization for proposed utility lines and for vehicular access between the site and a public road.


(10) Visual analysis of the proposed facility at design capacity, including at a minimum photo montages, photo simulations or other accurate representations of visual appearance from at least three different locations, at least two of which shall be from public locations from where the facility will be most visible. For locations determined by the Director of Planning and Building Services to be especially visually sensitive, the applicant may be requested to provide a demonstration of the proposed height of the facility on the site in the form of a tethered balloon, a vehicle-mounted boom, or other object raised to the proposed height.


(11)

If the facility includes an antenna tower, provide a detailed description of the tower and its capacity to support additional antennas.


(12)

A narrative discussing the factors leading to selection of the proposed site and antenna height, including alternative sites considered. For facilities not proposed to be co-located, the applicant shall provide a detailed statement substantiating why co-location is not practical.


(13)

A statement that the applicant and successors agree to negotiate in good faith for co-location of the proposed facility by third parties, and to require no more than a reasonable charge for co-location.


(14)

The Director of the Department of Planning and Building Services may waive submittal requirements or require additional information based on factors specific to an individual project. The Director may, at the applicant’s expense, require independent peer review of any technical claims or data submitted as part of the review process.

(B) Standards:


(1) General:



(a) Communications facilities that can co-locate with an existing facility will generally have highest preference, followed by facilities located on existing structures or buildings, then followed by facilities that can be designed or located so as to be visually unobtrusive ("stealthed"). Highly visible sites and sites within or near residential areas or schools are least preferred and will only be considered when there is compelling evidence that no other less visible alternative exists.



(b)

The design of wireless communications facilities should promote co-location among different communication services providers. To the extent feasible, lease areas, antenna towers, and equipment structures shall be designed to provide for the consolidation of future facilities to eliminate or minimize the visual clutter resulting from multiple communications structures. Applicant shall not enter into a lease that precludes possible co-location.



(c)

Existing facilities should make available unutilized space for co-location of other antennas and equipment, including space for competing communication services providers.



(d)

If use of any portion of a communications facility is discontinued for more than one year, such portion of the facility no longer in use, above grade, shall be completely removed from the site, and disused portions of the site shall be restored to a natural-appearing condition.



(e)

Prior to issuance of any permits for new communications facilities, the applicant shall provide an irrevocable letter of credit, bond, certificate of deposit, or other reasonable form of security satisfactory to County Counsel, sufficient to fund the removal of the facility and restoration of the site in the event that the carrier abandons operations or fails to comply with requirements for removal of facilities.



(f)

No signs, other than those required or necessary for operation of a communications facility shall be displayed on a communications facility site.



(g)

An identification sign for each company responsible for operation and maintenance of facilities at the site, not larger than two square feet, shall be posted at a location from which it can be easily read from outside the perimeter of the communications facility, and shall provide the name, address, and emergency telephone number of the responsible company.



(h) Use permits for communications facilities shall be issued for a maximum term of ten years.



(i)

All wireless communications facilities shall comply with the applicable provisions of the California Building Code, California Electrical Code, California Plumbing Code, California Mechanical Code, California Fire Code, and rules and regulations imposed by state and federal agencies.



(j) Towers shall not be built with guy wires in the absence of compelling evidence that there is no feasible construction alternative.



(k) Roads constructed or improved to provide access to a communications facility shall be provided with drainage facilities sufficient to convey storm runoff to natural drainage channels without erosion.



(l) Generators shall be equipped with mufflers and spark arresters, and shall not produce noise levels exceeding 50 dBa at the nearest off site residence. Routine testing and maintenance shall be limited to weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Repairs and emergency use are not included in this limitation.



(m) Expanded public notice may be provided for applications for new antenna towers when deemed necessary by the Director. In such cases, in addition to the standard notice provided to surrounding property owners, an eighth page legal ad may be published in a local newspaper of general circulation in lieu of a standard legal notice.


(2) Visual appearance:



(a) Communications facilities shall be located and designed to minimize visibility and to be visually compatible with their surroundings.


(b)

All exterior surfaces of structures and equipment associated with a communications facility shall have subdued colors and non-reflective materials selected to blend with their surroundings.


(c)

Co-location is required when feasible and when it minimizes adverse effects related to land use compatibility, visual resources, public safety and other environmental factors. Co-location is not required when it creates or increases such effects and/or technical evidence demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Planning Director that it is not feasible due to physical, spatial, or technological limitations. Fiscal constraints or competitive conflicts are not considered justifiable reasons for not co-locating a new facility where the opportunity for co-location exists.


(d)

Antennas mounted on visible surfaces of buildings or other structures shall be designed to look like an integral part of the structure.



(e)

Antennas mounted on the exterior walls of a building entirely below the roof line or parapet top may extend into any required yard setback a distance not exceeding two feet.



(f)

Roof-mounted antennas shall be located as far back from the edge of the roof as technically possible to minimize visibility from street level locations.



(g)

New communications facilities shall be discouraged on ridge top sites where they will be silhouetted against the sky from the surrounding community, or from highly used public locations.



(h)

Facility towers, antennas, buildings and other structures and equipment visible from adjacent residences or public vantage points, shall be designed, located, constructed, painted, screened, fenced, landscaped or otherwise architecturally treated to minimize their appearance and visually blend with the surrounding natural and built environments.



(i)

Outdoor lighting shall be kept to a minimum. Towers requiring FAA lighting are discouraged. Tower lighting, if approved, shall be the minimum required by FAA regulations. Towers requiring strobe lighting shall be prohibited. Other outdoor lighting shall be designed or located so that only reflected, non-glaring light is visible from beyond the immediate vicinity of the site, and shall be turned off except when in use by facility personnel.



(j)

Satellite dishes and other parabolic antennas shall be located in the least visible functional location on the site. In general, preferred locations will be close to the ground, on a wall below the roof line, or back from the edge of a roof.


(3) Radio Frequency Emissions:



(a)

Every wireless communications facility, by itself and in combination with other nearby communications facilities, shall comply with the Federal Communications Commission’s limits for human exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields


(4) Landscaping:



(a) Existing trees and other vegetation which will provide screening for the proposed facility and associated access roads shall be protected from damage during and after construction.



(b)

Areas of bare soil resulting from construction shall be replanted with vegetation compatible with that existing prior to construction, sufficient to stabilize soil and prevent erosion.



(c)

Additional landscaping shall be installed and maintained where it would provide a useful reduction in the visual impact of a communications facility. Introduced vegetation shall be native, drought tolerant species compatible with the predominant natural setting of the project area. Non-native drought tolerant species compatible with surrounding vegetation may be used in urban settings.



(d)

Communications facility sites, whether leased or purchased, shall be of sufficient size to include vegetative screening if landscaping would provide a useful reduction in visual impact.



(e)

No trees that provide visual screening of the communications facility shall be removed after project completion except to comply with fire safety regulations or to eliminate safety hazards. Tree trimming shall be limited to the minimum necessary for operation of the facility.


(5) Public Health and Safety:



(a) Communications facilities shall incorporate reasonable security measures to prevent unauthorized access or vandalism.


(b)

Communications facilities shall comply with California Department of Forestry Fire Safe Regulations, or with local fire agency requirements.



(c) Equipment buildings and enclosures shall be equipped with automatic fire extinguishing systems acceptable to the responsible fire agency.


(d)

Antennas and antenna towers shall be inspected every ten years, and following significant storm or seismic events, by a structural engineer licensed in the state of California to assess their structural integrity, and a report of the engineer’s findings shall be submitted to the Planning and Building Services Department. Costs of the inspection and report shall be borne by the applicant.



(e)

Communications facilities intended to provide services for the benefit of the general public during an emergency shall be designed to survive possible storm or seismic events without interruption of service.



(f)

Prior to commencement of operations, all surplus construction materials and debris, including cleared vegetation, shall be removed from the site to a proper disposal facility. Thereafter the site shall be kept free of refuse.



(g)

Antenna towers shall be subject to setbacks required by the County Zoning Code, and shall be set back a minimum of 110% of the overall height from any property line, and a minimum of 500% of the overall height from any off-site residence or school. Tower setbacks in excess of setbacks required by the Zoning Code may be reduced under any one of the following circumstances:




(i) The facility is proposed to be co-located with an existing, legally-established communications facility.



(ii)

All of the owners of affected properties agree to the reduced setback. A property is considered affected if its dwelling unit lies within a distance equivalent to the required setback for the subject tower prior to reduction and the reduced setback would result in the tower being located closer to the dwelling unit than the above setback would otherwise allow.




(iii)

Overall, the reduced setback enables greater mitigation of adverse visual and other environmental impacts than would otherwise be possible.


(C) Definitions:


(1) Antenna. A device used in communications designed to radiate and/or capture electromagnetic signals.


(2)

Antenna tower. Any pole, tower, or other structure, over 10 feet tall, erected for the purpose of supporting one or more antennas.


(3)

Building-mounted. Attached to and supported by a building or other structure more than 10 feet tall, other than an antenna tower.


(4)

Co-location. The installation of antennas operated by different entities in close proximity so that use of substantial elements of the facility such as the antenna tower, equipment shelter or fenced enclosure are shared. Co-location includes replacement of an existing tower with one capable of supporting additional antennas.


(5)

Ground-mounted. Supported directly on the ground, or on a structure not more than 10 feet tall erected to support one or more antennas.


(6)

Radio frequency radiation. Electromagnetic radiation in the portion of the spectrum from 3 kilohertz (kHz) to 300 gigahertz (gHz).


(7) Stealth design. Design techniques such as integrating a facility into the architecture of a non-communications structure, or using landscaping, materials and colors to make the facility visually unobtrusive or unnoticeable.

(8)

Temporary wireless communications facility. A wireless communications facility mounted on or within a vehicle or trailer, with a maximum antenna height not exceeding 25 feet, and temporarily located on a site for a duration not exceeding 90 days in any 6 month period.


(9)

Tower. See "antenna tower".


(10)

Tower mounted. Attached to and supported by an antenna tower.


(11)

Wireless communications. The transmission and/or reception of information through space using electromagnetic energy.


(12)

Wireless communications facility. Structures and/or equipment, including antennas, antenna towers, equipment cabinets, buildings, generators, fencing, access roads and the land upon which they are situated, associated with wireless communications.

The above resolution was introduced by Commissioner Nelson, seconded by Commission Lipmanson, and PASSED AND ADOPTED this 15th day of November, 2001, by the following vote of the Planning Commission of the County of Mendocino, State of California.


AYES: Calvert, Nelson, Barth, Lipmanson, McCowen

NOES: None

ABSTENTIONS: None

ABSENT: Berry, Little

WHEREUPON, the Chairman Declared said Resolution PASSED and ADOPTED and SO ORDERED.


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