The matter was discussed at length during Tuesday’s Sandy Springs City Council meeting at City Hall.
While the city’s current telecommunications ordinances have been effective in regulating the location of cell towers, those ordinances would be significantly improved by the addition of specific legal guidelines for distributive antenna systems (DAS), a newer hybrid type of wireless facility, said Assistant City Attorney Cecil McLendon.
Tuesday’s discussion comes on the heels of a council-induced moratorium on DAS being placed in the right-of-way.
“It was an issue that came up and when we looked at it, we didn’t see any specific regulations we could point to on that issue to help guide us,” McLendon said. “In reviewing this, we [recognize] it’s really got a lot of policy implications as to how we want to go forward.”
The DAS’ models can be used to transmit and receive both wireless telecommunications systems and wireless data communication systems. They consist of multiple small wireless antennae, or nodes, that can be installed on existing structures — such as light or electrical poles — or on new metal poles.
“We’ve sort of taken a small step, which I think is a critical step, in implementing this, which is [to have the ordinance] say there shall be no [DAS] in the right-of-way that are located on their own pole,” McLendon said. “That was the concern — that someone could come in and basically request poles for just a DAS box at the top of it.
“[New guidelines] say this does not go on a single pole. If you’re going to put it in the right-of-way it must be co-located on someone else’s infrastructure that is legally existing … and not on city infrastructure.”
The regulation of DAS in the right-of-way would be the first step taken in the regulation of those facilities, he added.
“We all hate cell towers … but if you don’t have any more cell towers, how the heck are all the phones going to work?” said District 4 Councilman Gabriel Sterling. “And, this could be a solution to that that’s aesthetically much more pleasing.
“I don’t want to preclude anybody from bringing us new technology, … but we do not have enough information on this right now.”
Staffers will further scrutinize the DAS and associated policy issues before again addressing the city’s governing board as part of an informative work session within the next couple of months, McLendon said.