Wireless Facilities Working Group
About the Wireless Facilities Working Group
The Town Board, at their January 15, 2019 established a Wireless Facilities Working Group with the purpose of that assisting the Town Board in developing a “consolidated, comprehensive and cost effective approach to the wireless telecommunications needs of the Town and its residents should be developed”.
The intention is for an integrated approach to cell service, public safety needs of our Police Department, Fire Departments, Volunteer Ambulance Corps and other emergency responders to communicate in the most effective manner with one another and with those who need emergency aid to communicate with emergency services.
One of the first responsibilities of the Working Group is to develop a Request for Proposal for consultancy services to assist the Working Group and the Town Board in developing a master plan for both large wireless facilities (cell towers) and small wireless facilities.
The committee members serve without compensation.
ADOPTED Wireless Telecommunications Law
The Board held a public hearing on December 4 on a proposed local law regarding wireless telecommunications facilities which replaced the Town’s existing 19 year old law.
The Town Board received comments from the Planning Board, most of which have been incorporated into the law. Members of the public presented comments at the hearing, many of which comments also are incorporated into the revised version The Board held open the public comment period following the December 4 public hearing and resumed the public hearing at its December 18 meeting.
Following the close of the public hearing, the Town Board adopted a negative declaration under SEQRA and then adopted the law.
Read the law here.
The proposed law was developed with members of the Communications Committee, our Planning Director Jeffrey Osterman and our counsel. The existing law essentially deals with cell towers and does not specifically address small wireless systems. With the advent of 5G and DAS technologies, wireless carriers are in the process of submitting cell tower and small wireless applications to municipalities throughout the country. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently adopted an order concerning small cell facility applications which is addressed in the proposed law.
With Bedford being no exception to the national trends, we need to work deliberately and carefully, but also expeditiously, to replace the existing cell tower law to address these new technologies and the Federal Communications Act and the FCC Order, and importantly to provide the Planning Board with additional tools in its review of applications. The proposed law will not be applied retroactively to existing applications being reviewed under the existing cell tower law.
The following are among the objectives of the proposed law:
- Required Distances from Existing Features – The current law requires that all cellular facilities be setback a certain distance from historic districts, Town-owned cemeteries or parkland. This stipulation unnecessarily limits the location of available sites, particularly in the denser areas of the Town.
- Alternative Sites – The law should give the Planning Board more authority to require providers to choose sites that have the least impact on residential neighborhoods by requiring the investigation of potential municipal, industrial or commercial properties as alternatives.
- 5G and New Technologies – Since the adoption of the 1999 law, the use of cell facilities and the available technology has increased rapidly. The law addresses the current and anticipated state of the industry.
- Distributed Antennae Systems (DAS) and other “micro-cell” facilities – These systems and facilities, which are being constructed now in Westchester County and other parts of the country, are frequently mounted on either new or existing utility poles within the road right-of-way and will be addressed through a separate provision in the new law.
- Emergency Services The Bedford Police Department and the other safety agencies and emergency responders recognize public safety issues associated with little or no cellular coverage or capacity in certain areas. Cellular service is not simply a matter of convenience to our residents and businesses, there are also safety considerations for our community to be able to reach emergency services and for emergency responders to have improved ability to communicate with one another. The proposed law may provide incentives to increase emergency service wireless access.
The following are key provisions of the law:
- Compliance with the Federal Communications Act, the FCC Order and court cases regarding the federal law and regulations.
- Separate permitting provisions for large wireless facilities and for small wireless facilities. Under the new FCC order applications for small wireless facilities must be acted upon more quickly than for large wireless facilities and under different standards of review.
- Retention of the provisions in the existing law that applications will be considered by the Planning Board except for applications for siting facilities on property owned or controlled by the Town, which the Town Board will continue to consider.
- Creation of a priority or ranking for placement of telecommunications facilities to provide the Town more tools in reviewing applications, with (1) being the highest priority and (7) the lowest.
- Collocation on existing telecommunication towers on lands owned or controlled by the Town.
- Collocation on a site with existing wireless telecommunication facilities or other tall structures in the Town.
- On other lands owned or controlled by the Town including but not limited to the Town public rights-of-way.
- On lands owned or controlled by other municipal corporations within the Town, to the extent permitted by such other municipal corporation.
- On non-residential zoned properties.
- On residential zoned properties.
- No wireless facilities are permitted in the Bedford Historic District, Katonah Historic District, or on any property designated as a Tier I or Tier II property, unless the applicant demonstrates to the Planning Board’s satisfaction that the selected site is necessary to provide adequate service and no feasible alternative site exists. Approval is required from the Bedford Village Historic District Review Commission, the Katonah Historic District Advisory Commission, or the Historic Building Preservation Commission, as appropriate, before any wireless facility is approved in the Bedford Historic District, Katonah Historic District, or on any property designated as a Tier I or Tier II property.