Procurement of Local Permit Rights
Performance of local permit rights services begins in the Site Selection phase of the project (through analysis of local zoning treatment, research of existing towers permits and applications, detail of the zoning process, and evaluation of fall zone requirements). Zoning Services continue in the Site Acquisition/ Leasing phase (in developing and getting Site Plans reviewed and approved), and conclude in the Zoning phase (in preparing and submitting applications, representing the Client in hearings, and, finally, obtaining the zoning permit).
Analyze Zoning Treatment in the Site Selection Phase
Determine the zoning treatment for the proposed site, based upon the zoning district & the type of review required. Some jurisdictions may have a tower/ telecommunications specific section or addendum to the ordinance that deals with communications towers (sometimes under reference to CMRS, referring to the provision of Commercial Mobile Radio Service), others may categorize all communications towers as ‘public utility structures’ (if no other reference if found), or with ‘radio & television broadcast towers’.
Research Other Applicants, Existing Communication Tower Permits
Determine from the Planning & Zoning Department the location of previous permits that have been granted for communications towers, and if any other communications towers are currently being or soon to be proposed in the jurisdiction (that they know about). Some Planning Departments have done an inventory of tower sites within their jurisdiction, and, if so, we will secure this type of information. For all existing or prior applications, the jurisdiction should have a file that could be reviewed at the counter or, otherwise, under the supervision of the Planning & Zoning Department. At this time some carriers may be planning multiple towers in the same jurisdictional. By reviewing some case files we might discover an entire list of sites being proposed at this time.
Detail Zoning Process
Determine the type of permit required (usually a Conditional Use Permit ‘CUP’, or a Special Use Permit ‘SUP’), the process for the permit, the number of hearings required (usually one or two), which governing bodies the hearings are conducted before (eg. The Planning Commission, The Board County Commissioners, or The Board of Adjustment). Sometimes no hearings will be required, as the Planning or Zoning Administrator may be given the ability to review the application himself and give approval. This is called, ‘Administrative Review’. We also, find out what, if any, the Subdivision Requirements are, and if there is a requirement for the application to be submitted for Site Plan Review.
Obtain documentation if there is no zoning
In other cases, there may be no zoning in effect throughout the county, or just no zoning in the unincorporated area of the county where we propose the tower. In this case, obtain a letter dated and signed by the County Clerk or other County official on County stationery stating something to the effect that, “There is no zoning ordinance, in effect or planned, (either for the county, the unincorporated areas of the county- possibly outside of a mile or two radius from each incorporated area, or the Township & Range) where the site is proposed”, as may be the case.
Setbacks (Fall Zone)
Determine if the jurisdiction (county or municipality) has required setbacks for towers from property lines. Often the tower setback requirement (a/k/a/ the tower fall zone) is established as a percentage of the tower height (eg. 100% or 1 to 1, 2/3rd’s, 50%, etc.). The setback (or fall zone) requirement means that there can be no property line or existing buildings within the setback distance, and that future applications for development within that distance may be denied because it falls within the tower fall zone.
Planning for a 100% fall zone, wherever possible, even if not required by Code
Even if there are not tower setbacks it is good planning to allow for a 100 % fall zone in laying out the site. This will be helpful in case fall zone requirements are enacted at a future date. If the tower is built so as to only accommodate a 50 % or 75 % fall zone, and the jurisdiction later establishes a 100 % or 1 to 1 fall zone requirement, the tower could become a Non-Conforming Use. As a Non-Conforming Use changes or additions to the site (representing additional revenues) proposed by Client and requiring permit approval by the jurisdiction could be denied or restricted, unless and until the tower conforms with the Fall Zone requirement. Also, because planning for the 100 % Fall Zone is good planning, doing so can be beneficial in securing the Zoning Permit. Just because a Zoning Code doesn’t require a 100 % fall zone does not mean that some Planning Commissioner or County Commissioner won’t insist on it when it comes time to go to a public hearing for the permit.
The reality about tower failures
Tower failures are very rare. The Electronic Industries Association (EIA) Standard RS-222 (as revised) specifies Structural Standards for Steel Antenna Towers and Antenna Supporting Structures. The specifications detail wind loading requirements, allowable stress levels, foundation, guy, and anchor standards, and twist and sway considerations. Client communications towers should be designed to meet and exceed federal standards. Generally, the only things that could bring a tower down are overloading (wind loading), the failure of a guy anchor, or a collision by aircraft. The discussion about tower fall zones concerns community land planning issues. While a self supporting lattice tower would fall like a tree, guyed lattice towers and most monopoles are designed to collapse on the themselves. Guyed towers usually collapse within a distance equal to about 40 % of the height of the tower. Monopoles usually collapse within a distance equal to about 65 % to 75 %.
Drive Target Area: Identify existing towers, others land uses, & utilities
Using a pencil, mark up the topo map to indicate street names, existing towers with identifying information (ie. Company name, Registration number, phone contact, guyed or self supporting, height), existing land uses, the existence of local power lines, and telco pedestals in the area of the target and any alternate site locations to consider. AM radio towers can usually be identified as such because the tower itself is the antenna, and, therefore, AM radio towers don’t usually have any visible attachments on the tower. Often AM radio towers are clusters of three of more similar towers without attachments.
Site Plans- Site Acquisition Phase
Coordinate site plans with the Civil Engineer and is responsible to verify local zoning code requirements (setbacks, height limitations, landscaping, etc). If the site involves a tenant improvement, it may be necessary to obtain “as-built” drawings for the site. These drawings can usually be obtained from the property owner or the local building safety department. Once a preliminary site plan is completed, review and make sure it conforms to zoning requirements. If the site plan is acceptable (or if only minor changes are required – ones that do not affect the height of the monopole/tower or location of the shelter); copies of the plan will be forwarded along with a cover letter to the property owner for their sign-off. Have the property owner sign and return one copy to the Client for it’s records. We will mark one of the copies with a box that reads: “Location Approved” and “Date” so the owner knows where to sign and date. We will provide a self-addressed, stamped envelope for their convenience in returning the site plan to you. The second copy is for the owner to keep. Occasionally, a property owner may make some changes to the site plan. If that happens, coordinate the changes and repeat the above process until we obtain a signed, approved site plan from the property owner.
If major changes are required on the preliminary site plan, we don’t send it to the property owner for review until such changes are made. We are sure you have an accurate site plan before filing for zoning or any other type of formal review.
Zoning or other formal review processes may require additional changes to the site plan, so that in some cases there will be two stages of site plans: preliminary and final. The preliminary site plan reflects the correct location of the building and monopole/tower and height of the monopole/tower. The final site plan will reflect zoning stipulations, site plan approval stipulations, etc. As such revisions are required, coordinate these revisions. Once a final site plan is available, obtain a set of legal descriptions on the Civil Engineer’s letterhead. Use one copy of the legal descriptions in preparing the attachments to the lease agreement. If the landlord would like a full-size copy of the site plan, order one and forward it to them. The Landlord will receive copies of the reduced versions as attachments to the lease agreement.
Applications in the Zoning Phase
Prepare and submit zoning, environmental and all other land use and design applications to the proper jurisdiction.
As such, complete and provide the following information.
· Obtain all applicable land use, design and zoning codes, policies, regulations and application materials from local jurisdiction
· Manage preparation of zoning drawings and have them reviewed and approved by Client and Landlord prior to submission to local jurisdiction
· Confirm all land use application review processes and time frames with local jurisdictions
· Prepare and complete applications working with Client
· Coordinate and prepare all materials and notifications and attend all community meetings, as needed, either officially or unofficially, to support the application approval process
· Prepare materials, comment and attend all local jurisdiction hearings and meetings as a Client spokesperson for the project.
· Ensure that Client is informed of all conditions placed on project by local jurisdiction which would affect construction, operation or site maintenance.
Zoning Services are complete following an approval of a zoning decision, memorialized approved zoning decision, and/ or appeal period following a zoning decision. Provide one or more of the following to prove zoning approval; A hard copy of the approved zoning application (in some cases a permit form), a hard copy of the approved zoning decision and or letter from the jurisdiction approving the zoning application.
If a site requires administrative zoning approval including, but not limited to, pulling a building permit for approval a copy of the permit, a letter stating no further zoning action will be provided.
Provide a Close Out
Package representing the total history of a Client antenna facility site.
Prepare periodical performance reports and attend Status Meetings as mutually agreed upon with the Client.
Zoning Entitlement/Site Plan Approval
As soon as a final site plan is available, file the appropriate application for zoning or site plan review as required. As the zoning process can take several months it is a good idea to begin discussions with the local planning staff as soon as possible, perhaps even attending a pre-application meeting to discuss the project, hearing dates, submittal deadlines, etc. In some jurisdictions, it may be necessary to go through a separate design review and/or site plan approval process in addition to zoning.
Upon final City Council or Board of Supervisors approval, forward a copy of the approval action and stipulations (if any) to the Construction Manager and Real Estate Manager. The Construction Manager will want to include the stipulations in the bid package to the contractors.
Take steps to avoid frustrations that plague many projects & businesses- due to inefficiency. Wireless projects that are not initiated with the proper front-end project management perspective often experience time waste, increased costs, excuses for mistakes, and general discontent.