Ship Bottom Council Approves Wireless Communications Regulations

May 31, 2017

In a move to protect the community from unsightly technological advances, the Ship Bottom Borough Council took action to ensure the gateway community to Long Beach Island remains unblemished by wireless communication progress.

“We’re not opposed to technology,” Mayor William Huelsenbeck said ahead of the council’s unanimous approval of changes to the borough’s land use code May 23, which added a new chapter dedicated to wireless communication facilities. “We’re just protecting the town.”

The amended ordinance establishes zoning regulations for wireless communication facilities and equipment inside as well as outside of borough right of ways, the mayor said.  It also redefines such terms as right of ways, dead spots, antenna and facilities, among many others.

Dead spots, defined in the ordinance as “small areas within a service area where the field of strength is lower than the minimum level for reliable service or inadequate capacity exists as determined by expert testimony in accordance with industry standards,” are particularly important because companies are supplementing these zones with newer technology.

The new technology is smaller and popping up on utility poles around the state, the mayor said. In some cases, large towers are built without requiring a municipality’s permission, he noted.

The purpose of the new chapter regulating wireless communications facilities is to protect residential areas and land uses from possible adverse impacts as well as to promote and make certain suitable locations for these facilities take into consideration public health, welfare and safety, according to the ordinance.

Additionally, the ordinance calls for consistency with federal and state laws minimizing the total number of wireless communication facilities in Ship Bottom.

More companies are changing the way they do wireless, and although there are no requests in front of borough officials for consideration now, the council wants to regulate where the technology can be placed, the mayor said. Currently, most wireless communication routers are located on the water tower, he said.

The ordinance favors the joint use of existing and approved wireless communication facilities as a principal option rather than construction of a new tower-based facility. It also encourages the location of wireless communications facilities, where possible, in areas with minimal undesirable impact on residents and the community aesthetics, all while improving the ability of telecommunication providers to offer services to the community rapidly, efficiently and capably.

Lastly, the ordinance gives the borough authority to consider the master plan, zoning map, existing land uses and environmentally sensitive areas in the approval of sites for the location of wireless communications facilities and the regulation of such facilities.

“If we don’t have a law (on the books), we can’t protect” the borough, Huelsenbeck said. “Technology is changing quicker than towns can keep up.”

— Gina G. Scala

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