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Chatham County to hold hearing on cell-tower rules changes

Posted Monday, October 7, 2013

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Pittsboro, NC - The Chatham County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing Oct. 21 on a new Wireless Telecommunications Facilities Ordinance, which would replace the county’s existing Communications Tower Ordinance.

The hearing will be part of the Regular Session of the Board of Commissioners in the Historic Courthouse in Pittsboro, beginning at 6 pm.

“We hope these changes will make Chatham County more attractive for wireless providers to expand and enhance service,” said County Commissioner Pam Stewart. “Wireless telecommunications access is critical for for economic development, education, public safety and quality of life.”

Staff presented a new ordinance rather than rewrite the existing ordinance due to the need to update several key elements, including incorporating new legislation recently passed by the state and federal governments and addressing county commissioners’ direction to streamline the process.

The new ordinance was based on a model ordinance developed by the N.C. League of Municipalities. “We opted to use that as a template because it already incorporated the state-mandated changes and included a more streamlined cell tower review process,” said Hillary Pace from the Planning Department.

The main differences in the proposed ordinance compared to the county’s existing ordinance for communication towers are:

• The annual search ring process has been eliminated to comply with state and federal requirements, which allows wireless facilities to site anywhere allowed within the county’s jurisdiction at any time of year.

• The “areas” designated in the existing ordinance would be removed and height of towers would be governed by proximity to residential districts, with setback requirements based on tower height. This should allow taller towers in more rural areas.

• • The proposed ordinance provides a wider array of administrative approvals and eliminates the conditional zoning requirement as part of the approval process. Where applicable, new towers would be subject to a conditional use permit, such as when locating in residentially zoned areas.

• The proposed ordinance would require a “line of sight” diagram to show the appearance of proposed towers subject to a conditional use permit approval.

• The proposed ordinance retains some elements from the existing county ordinance, including landscaping requirements for tower support structures, the prohibition on placing wireless facilities within “Major Wildlife Areas,” and existing rules related to enforcement and remedies.

The public hearing will also cover changes to the county’s Zoning Ordinance to correctly reference the requirements in the proposed Wireless Telecommunications Facilities Ordinance.

To speak at the hearing, residents may sign up in advance online or contact Lindsay Ray at 919-542-8200. Speakers are encouraged to send written comments to

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Chatham County to hold hearing on cell-tower rules changes
Will Chatham County see taller cell towers in more rural areas.

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