Wireless Communications Facilities

Relevant Regulations and Local Policy

  • Federal Level: The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 mandated streamlined cell tower modification and co-location approval provided that it would not substantially change the physical dimensions of the tower or base station
  • Local Level: The 2012 Comprehensive Plan requires that Teton County maintain the scenic resources of the community while balancing the need for infrastructure that will promote a stable and diverse economy, create a positive atmosphere for economic development, and maintain current, coordinated service delivery
    • Local regulation development:
      • August 2013: Teton County Board of Commissioners contracted with CityScape to assist in updating the wireless section of the Land Development Regulations (LDRs) in accordance with federal and local regulatory updates
        • This contract and work entailed a moratorium on for 105 days on new cell tower applications, excluding co-locations and tower improvements
        • Staff was directed to work with CityScape and wireless companies to create predictable regulations that meet federal requirements and Teton County scenic standards
        • Staff conducted surveys with the electeds, planning commissioners, wireless providers, and other stakeholders. Staff spent 6+ hours with each wireless provider in Teton County discussing their infrastructure needs, reviewing draft regulations, and incorporating changes into the draft regulations in order to meet the needs of Teton County, wireless service providers, and federal law
      • October 2013: staff conducted a workshop with the Board to present information on what the County can control, what is controlled by the federal regulations, and to discuss priorities from the community, wireless providers, and elected officials:
        • the community desires good cell coverage
        • the wireless providers desire regulatory predictability
        • elected officials embraced an incentive-based approach:
          • streamlining the process for applicants that meet certain design criteria
          • departure from incentivizing co-location as the #1 tool (which was the case under the LDRs at the time) because it resulted in higher towers (due to the federal law allowing an outright height increase of 20% for all towers); instead promoting fewer, shorter towers that blend in as much as possible with the built environment and landscape
      • December 2013: based on information from the workshop, staff drafted new wireless LDRs and presented them to the Board for approval
        • This process met the moratorium deadline and satisfied the goals of all parties involved: expanded wireless infrastructure (good cell service/reception), incentives to blend with the built and natural environment, Board discretion for new towers that do not meet certain criteria, and predictability for the wireless industry
    • The result of this process is the current LDRs related to wireless towers which allow for staff level review for some wireless infrastructure, including new cell towers that meet certain criteria, in order to incentivize cell tower companies and wireless carriers to construct the least visually obtrusive towers in Teton County

Public Health Considerations

  • The federal position related to public health considerations is that the exemption within the Telecommunications Act of 1996 is based on 16 years of studies on the effects of radio frequency (RF) exposure to humans and guidelines were based on and created from those studies
  • Therefore, a local government cannot deny an application based on health considerations, however, local governments can require an applicant to confirm they are meeting the required federal limits, which is the practice of Teton County for all applications

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Radio Frequency Information

FCC: Wireless Devices and Health Concerns