The Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday will consider a revision to its Utility Accommodation Ordinance to address small cell technology and other new technologies being utilized in the telecommunications industry.
The proposed revision follows a moratorium passed by the Board at a called meeting on Aug. 16 barring the issuance of permits and the acceptance of applications for permits for the installation of wireless communication devices and facilities in the county's rights of way.
The Commission approved the moratorium after Crown Castle of Roswell asked the county to renew an expired permit issued in July of 2016 for underground and aerial fiber optic lines and small cell sites in the county right of way along Epps Bridge Parkway and the Oconee Connector.
The proposed revision to the Utility Accommodation Ordinance sets standards for maximum size of small cell wireless facilities and their appearance, requires that existing structures be used if possible, and establishes an annual permit fee of $250 for each facility.
At the called meeting of the Board of Commissioners on Aug. 16, County Administrative Office Justin Kirouac said “This is a case where we have technology somewhat out–not somewhat out–significantly outpacing our existing ordinances.”
|Haygood And Kirouac 8/16/2018|
Kirouac recommended an 120-day moratorium to allow the county to update its ordinances.
The goal, Kirouac said, was to “provide a better look at these new technologies as they are coming in and make sure they adhere to what Oconee County is looking for in terms of the appropriate aesthetics and usage within our right of way.”
County Attorney Daniel Haygood said others communities are doing the same thing.
Haygood said he didn’t think the county would need 120 days to change the ordinance but recommended that duration for the moratorium “just out of an abundance of caution.”
Commissioners Chuck Horton, Mark Thomas and Commission Chair John Daniell approved the moratorium. Commissioners Mark Saxon and William “Bubber” Wilkes were absent.
Crown Castle Application
Guy Herring, director of the Oconee County Planning and Code Enforcement Department, told me on Aug. 17 that the request by Crown Castle to renew its application for underground and aerial fiber optic lines and three small cell nodes was the impetus for the moratorium.
The 2016 application by Crown Castle shows a line running along Epps Bridge Parkway from the Atlanta Highway to the Oconee Connector and then along the Oconee Connector. Herring provided me a copy of the expired permit.
The document shows the line being above ground along part of Epps Bridge Parkway in Oconee County before going underground. It would have been underground along the remainder of Epps Bridge Parkway and along the Connector.
Nodes would have been at Dowdy Road and Epps Bridge Parkway, at the Connector and Old Epps Bridge Road, and on the Connector about half way between Epps Bridge Parkway and SR Loop 10.
Proposed Ordinance Revision
The revision of the Utility Accommodation Ordinance before the Board at its 6 p.m. meeting on Tuesday would add 12 pages to the existing five-page ordinance. The existing ordinance makes no reference to small cell technology.
The proposed ordinance would set the maximum height for new or modified small cell wireless facilities of 50 feet above grade.
The revised ordinance would require that all small cell wireless facilities use “stealth technology unless the applicant can satisfactorily demonstrate to the County that the proposed installation, or set of installations...will not materially detract from the streetscape, landscape, skyline, beauty, or aesthetic interests of Oconee County.”
Stealth technology is defined as “state-of-the-art design techniques used to blend objects into the surrounding environment and to minimize visual impact.”
The proposed ordinance states the small cell wireless facility “shall be located on an existing structure in the rights-of-way, unless the applicant can demonstrate that no such location opportunities exist.”
The ordinance would become effective after a first reading on Tuesday night and passage by the Commission on Sept. 4.
The brief video from the Aug. 16 called meeting is below.