Planners discuss options for cell towers
by Margo Avakian
Jul 13, 2014 | 2757 views | 0 0 comments | 63 63 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HALIFAX- The planning commission devoted its Tuesday meeting to section six of the zoning ordinance, the section that deals with “the operation, siting, design, appearance, construction, monitoring, modification, and removal of wireless telecommunications facilities and towers.” The provisions of this bylaw are provisional indeed. As John Bennett, of the Windham Regional Commission, noted, federal and state laws “obviate the town regulations.” In particular, the law allowing a fast track for applications through the Public Service Board means that applicants can ignore bylaws like section six.

Edee Edwards pointed out, however, that the fast track law is now set to sunset in 2017. When that happens, local zoning could once again become the operating authority. And, as Bennett observed, applicants are not required to use the fast track process. An applicant could elect to use the more lengthy and cumbersome process, though no one present could imagine why anyone would. The commissioners agreed that section six should be retained and made as clear, accurate, and relevant as possible, even though it may see no use in the foreseeable future.

In the course of the discussion, visitor Stephen Chait asked whether zoning deals, or could deal, with issues of possible radiological hazards. No, Bennett told Chait; federal law pre-empts that issue, and municipalities may not consider it.

The Halifax bylaw includes provisions for the dismantling and removal of “abandoned or unused towers or non-compliant towers or facilities.” One condition for a permit is a financial surety bond sufficient to cover the costs of facility removal and site restoration. Chait suggested that an escrow account might be safer than a surety bond. Given the current legal landscape, Bennett emphasized the importance of getting the PSB to attach removal and restoration conditions to its certificates of public good.

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