City Council May Take Action Next Tuesday On Small Cell Devices; Ledford Says A Unique Chattanooga Design Is Needed In Place Of "Horrible" Structures

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The City Council may take action next Tuesday on one section of new regulations dealing with the evolving technology involving small cell devices.

Assistant City Attorney Phil Noblett said the industry is moving from the large cell towers of the late 1990s to smaller apparatus designed to bring additional bandwidth to particular locations.

Councilman Darrin Ledford said, "The versions I've seen are all horrible. They are not very appealing. None of the options look unique and creative."

He said he was challenging providers to come up with a special Chattanooga look so people will say, "That's really cool. What is that?"

Attorney Noblett said the city had not granted a new telecommunications franchise in over two decades, then it got an application from the Zayo firm. Zayo eventually sued the city in Federal Court, saying it was taking too long to come up with regulations.

Attorney Noblett said that suit has been settled through mediation. He said the city was supposed to come up with new rules by the end of March. 

He said Zayo and other providers are in talks with the city on how to proceed and what will work and not work for the industry. There was a session on Monday with five providers.

The attorney said, under federal law, the companies have the right to install the devices with or without the city's blessing. He said the city needs to act to set up controls on such factors as height, distance apart and design or lose all say-so in the matter.

Appeals will be through the Board of Appeals, or could also be by the new Form Based Code Committee.

There will also be an aspect of zoning on the small cell applications.

Attorney Noblett said, in addition to fixed installations with antennas, that providers sometimes will bring in mobile structures for temporary infusion of bandwidth at concerts and other events.

He said most of the interest thus far has been for downtown, UTC and the Hamilton Place Mall area.


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