When getting ready to buy homes, people usually look for a neighborhood with good schools, decent property taxes and such. Home shoppers in Londonderry, N.H., also should be checking for adequate wireless coverage.
The city council there has implemented an ordinance concerning the placement of wireless antennas. It’s the first I’ve heard of any policy in place designed specifically to address antenna siting. Most cities are still studying the issue and have issued moratoriums to prevent any building from being done until city planners get a handle on the issue.
But before the Londonderry City Council pats itself on the back for getting ahead of the curve, it should reconsider its policy.
The city chose the easy way out-a blanket policy where no antennas can be placed in residential areas. Variances will be required for carriers that need to place towers in areas zoned for residential use.
End of story.
But it’s not. The people of Londonderry-and every other city in the nation-are going to have to reach compromises about antennas. PCS brings the promise of wireless communications to the masses. PCS also plans to bring about 100,000 more antenna sites.
While a blanket ordinance that allowed any tower to be installed in any location would be seen as irresponsible, so is its opposite. Subdivision A may receive acceptable wireless coverage because it is adjacent to an industrial zone, where the carrier can place the antenna. Subdivision B may not be so fortunate.
Home owners worried about lower property values wanted to play it safe and forgo any antennas in residential areas. I understand their reaction-no one wants an ugly tower looming over their back yard-but it was knee-jerk.
How many of us would notice a discreetly placed antenna? If cellular antennas already in place in residential areas are eyesores, they should be removed so property values aren’t affected.
Special use permits initially seem like a prudent way to address the lone antenna or two that must be installed in a residential area, but a planning commission that has to issue several special use permits will be more likely to deny the latter ones just because it has granted enough already.
While the wireless industry worries that moratoriums are causing delays in PCS buildout, moratoriums actually could prove to be industry’s friend, in that they give operators time to try to educate the community.
It seems, however, the messengers aren’t getting the message out.