Fifth Generation Cell Towers Coming To Ponce Inlet
November 23, 2021
By Joe Perrone: joe.perrone@C4Pi.org
Even if you’ve purchased a new 5G phone, you won’t get 5G functionality until 5G service has been installed in town. But, unlike the existing tall 4G cell tower adjacent to Pollard Park, it won’t be from one giant tower but from a string of poles winding their way through the streets. While the State of Florida, in its Advanced Wireless Infrastructure Deployment Act, addressed broadband infrastructure in the public rights-of-way by service providers and infrastructure companies, State law limits the degree to which a local government may regulate such wireless communication facilities. The Act, however, does permit municipalities to adopt objective design standards that may require wireless facilities in the rights-of-way to meet reasonable location context, color, stealth, and concealment requirements, along with spacing and location requirements for ground-mounted equipment.
In anticipation of the eventual installation by wireless infrastructure providers of 5G service within the Town’s right-of-way, and recognizing that without a local ordinance in place such providers may construct facilities in a manner that can create safety and aesthetic issues, the Town Council on November 19th approved (at first reading) an ordinance to adopt regulations related to such placement, maintenance, and replacement of said wireless and other communications facilities. The process leading up to the adoption of the new ordinance began back in May when the Council directed Planning Department staff to research Federal/State preemptions, as well as examples of local ordinances, to establish a uniform process for the permitting of wireless communications facilities within the Town’s right of way. At the Council’s June meeting, planning staff presented an overview of the State’s regulations establishing the parameters of a local government’s permitting authority for such facilities, after which the Council directed staff to prepare draft regulations for review by the Planning Board. At the Board’s public meetings in September and October, planning staff received feedback regarding desired aesthetic requirements for pole-mounted and ground-mounted equipment, placement locations within the Town’s right-of-way, landscaping, and application submittal requirements.
The new ordinance (a) provides for objective design standards requiring new poles to be consistent with the predominant utility pole type at the location of new poles, (b) prohibits exposed wires or cables by requiring them to be completely enclosed within the utility pole or covered with a shroud or wrap matching the pole cover, (c) requires the use of “slim design” equipment that does not exceed the diameter of the utility pole by a certain amount, (d) requires “stealth design” by which new utility poles or structures must be substantially similar in design, material, and color as existing poles, (e) prohibits the attachment of signage or extra lighting unless required by Federal/State regulation, (f) requires ground-mounted equipment to be placed within a 10-foot radius from the utility pole and located in areas with existing foliage or concealed with additional plantings, (g) requires utility poles to be placed on the outside edge of the right-of-way and adjacent to the shared common property line between adjoining properties, and encourages that they be placed equidistant between existing utility poles, (h) limits the height of new utility poles to that of the tallest pole located in the same right-of-way within 500 feet of the proposed location, and to 50 feet in height if no utility pole is in the vicinity (the pole-mounted equipment cannot exceed 10 feet above the top of the pole), and (i) provides a cross-reference to the standards for utilities in the Lighthouse Overlay District and Riverfront Overlay District, wherein all above-ground utility components (e.g., transformers, meters, etc.) shall be screened by plant material or a decorative wall.
It should be noted that the new ordinance would apply only to Town-owned public roads. Since South Atlantic Avenue is under the jurisdiction of the County, the Town’s ordinance will not apply to installations located along that right-of-way. That is because the County’s own 5G ordinance, adopted in 2019, applies to all County thoroughfares, both inside and outside incorporated municipalities. However, the Town’s planning staff has assured that the County’s standards are similar to those being proposed for the Town.
The new ordinance will become effective upon approval by the Town Council at a second reading, which would be at its December meeting.
August 17, 2020
National Flood Insurance Program
The Town participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and all property owners can purchase flood insurance for structures and contents within the Town.
Town Sewer Master Plan:
In February 2018, Town Council authorized the town staff to submit an application to St Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) for septic-to-sewer upgrades for two project areas outlined in the Town’s Sewer Master Plan. One of these projects was for Ponce de Leon Circle. The Town was not awarded the grant at that time for two reasons: 1) the project was too large, as SJRWMD prefers smaller project awards; and 2) the Town did not have the full design for the project, which deems it as “shovel-ready”. Since that time, the City of Port Orange approved funding the design for the Ponce de Leon Circle gravity sewer project at a cost of approximately $200,000 and then worked with the Town to hold two neighborhood meetings to discuss the project. The Town then submitted the project as a shovel-ready project for grant funding to SJRWMD, the Indian River Lagoon Board (IRL), and as a Special Legislative Appropriation to Senator Wright and Representative Leek. While the IRL grand and Special Legislative Appropriate was denied, the Town has been awarded a 34% match from SJRWMD for a project estimated at approximately one million dollars. The City of Port Orange has expressed willingness to increase their participation to make up some of this difference because they deem this as one of their high priority environmental projects due to this street being specifically surrounded by water on all three sides and the excessive flooding this area experiences during weather and tidal events. The Town of Ponce Inlet intends to cover the costs of the street being reconstructed and some stormwater improvements desired as well, via gas tax funding, estimated at $118,000.