Monday, November 16, 2015
City to ban wireless Wi-Fi, cell towers
Any and all plans to implement Wi-Fi or cell phone towers within the Sequim city limits are on hold.
The Sequim City Council approved a six-month moratorium on wireless communication support towers on Oct. 26 via a 5-1 vote with councilor Dennis Smith opposed and Ken Hays absent.
The moratorium went into immediate effect and includes all zones except public facility zones, according to Ordinance 2015-018.
“New technology allows this, but appropriate consideration needs to be made for safety so they don’t become ‘wi-fry’ towers,” City Attorney Craig Ritchie, said. “That is something we don’t have regulations for.”
Although the city has yet to receive any applications for the construction and installation of either Wi-Fi or cell towers, the moratorium allows city officials the time to create appropriate safety and aesthetic regulations to support the technology.
“We didn’t have to worry about this before because the technology wasn’t good enough to have good transmission from shorter towers, but now we have to worry about it,” Ritchie said. “The City of Sequim does not have sufficient control over the potential use of our rights of way by cell phone and wireless companies for mini-tower structures.”
Already, cities like Spokane have dealt with the onset of wireless companies in pursuit of real estate to install mini-communication towers, which are then leased to companies like AT&T, Verizon or Sprint. There’s also a Wi-Fi net-work relying on similar technology in Port Angeles, but the towers used are primarily placed on city-owned telephone poles, Ritchie said, whereas the City of Sequim doesn’t own its telephone poles.
“What we’re really looking at is almost nothing but safety,” Ritchie said. “As a hypothetical example, X-rays are a safe technology, but testing X-rays is important because they’re adjustable and you can fry things with X-rays if set incorrectly that otherwise are wonderful things, therapeutic, diagnostic agents.”
Once developed, Ritchie expects the local regulations to be similar to those created in Spokane where the data showing how testing will be done, how often and the parameters, are required.
“As I understand it from our consultant, it (the safety) has to do with how stuff is aimed,” he said. “So if it’s aimed right, it should be fine.”
Once the needed regulations and associated requirements are in place, Ritchie anticipates working with companies seeking to install mini-communication towers, he said, as the city isn’t against better cell phone coverage and Wi-Fi access.
Consistent with the adoption of a moratorium without first holding a public hearing, a hearing has been scheduled on Monday, Nov. 9.