Lakewood backtracks on 5G site moratorium

Small cell sites can continue to go through under new ordinance

Joseph Rios
jrios@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 3/3/20

Lakewood’s moratorium, or pause, on construction of small cells that provide 5G internet lasted a total of 17 days. After discussing small cell permit applications in a closed-off executive session …

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Lakewood backtracks on 5G site moratorium

Small cell sites can continue to go through under new ordinance

Posted

Lakewood’s moratorium, or pause, on construction of small cells that provide 5G internet lasted a total of 17 days.

After discussing small cell permit applications in a closed-off executive session at a Feb. 27 special Lakewood City Council meeting, as recommended by Lakewood’s Attorney Tim Cox and the city’s special counsel, councilmembers emerged from the city manager’s office conference room to reconvene for a four-minute meeting before the public.

That meeting saw Lakewood City Council vote 8-1 on a lengthy ordinance that terminates the moratorium that was passed at a Feb. 10 city council meeting. Lakewood City Councilmember Charley Able voted against the ordinance, and Councilmembers Anita Springsteen and David Skilling were not present.

The ordinance paves the way for city staff to resume accepting and processing wireless small cell antenna site applications, including those that were accepted prior to the moratorium. Other provisions of the ordinance require applications to comply with federal, state and local laws, including a pending Lakewood ordinance that regulates small cell antennas and updates city code to align with changes made in state and federal law. The ordinance also says applications must also comply with any requirements imposed on a specific site by the National Environmental Policy Act.

Able said the ordinance council passed at the Feb. 27 meeting was well thought out. He called his no vote a protest against the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) laws that place a cap on the amount of fees that municipalities can charge 5G providers for licenses and permits for the small cells and limits city control for managing 5G infrastructure.

“I think it is a matter of protecting our neighborhood character and the character of our city as a whole. It should be up to Lakewood City Council to determine how, when, where and what (small cells) should look like,” said Able. “Instead, we’re under the gun. What should be our community partners, the utilities that provide 5G service, they are telling us you do it now, or we sue. I just don’t like negotiating at the point of a gun.”

Under state law, small cells can be placed in any zone district, and municipalities have a 90 day “shot clock” to approve or deny small cell antenna site applications.

Small cells can be attached to light poles and other city owned infrastructure. They’re composed of an antenna located inside an enclosure. That enclosure will be no larger than three cubic feet in Lakewood as called for in the city’s pending small cell ordinance.

Lakewood had previously passed the moratorium as some councilmembers wanted to try to make the small cell ordinance more restrictive. The proposed ordinance will see small cell design features be done in a way that is intended to minimize the impact on the surrounding neighborhood and to maintain the character and appearance of the city. They can be placed on existing or new and replaced streetlight poles. The pending ordinance also enforces design standards that address the paintings of poles, placing shrouds on small cells and other aesthetic issues.

Heidi Flato, a public relations manager for Verizon, a wireless provider, said in an email to the Lakewood Sentinel that it is often necessary to build small cells where its customers want and need to use its service.

“As more people are doing more things, in more places, with more mobile devices, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in voice and data traffic on our network. We only expect that trend to increase,” she said.

5G provides faster data speeds and carries a massive amount of data for a large number of simultaneous users, Flato’s email says. She added that Verizon hasn’t announced plans to launch 5G in Lakewood, but that it is working closely with Lakewood to come up with a small cell ordinance.

Lakewood’s small cell ordinance is up for second reading on April 27. There are eight small cell sites that are close to being operational in the city.

“There are certainly challenges we face with the federal government (law) as well as (Colorado law). We always look for local control, and in some cases, we’re limited,” said Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul. “This is one of those cases.”

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