SEQUIM — The City Council has enacted a moratorium on mini Wi-Fi/cell tower construction or installation within city limits until a code is drafted to better regulate the structures.
The moratorium became effective immediately after being adopted by the council Monday.
A public hearing on the moratorium has been set for 6 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Sequim Civic Center, 152 W. Cedar St.
Prior to the moratorium, city code allowed the use of Wi-Fi/cell signal broadcasting devices on street poles located within city rights of way but didn’t include specific regulations for the devices, said City Attorney Craig Ritchie.
The city didn’t receive any construction or installation applications for such sites prior to Monday’s meeting, he said.
The moratorium now “cuts off the chance for applications that would be approved under existing rules,” he said.
“We [could] still technically receive applications. We would hold them until the new regulations got adopted, and then they would be approved under the new regulations.”
Of most concern is that the city does not have sufficient regulations in place to deal with radio frequency protection and testing requirements, Ritchie said.
“What we are really looking at is almost nothing but safety,” he said.
The city didn’t previously need such regulations “because technology wasn’t good enough to have good transmission from shorter towers, but now we have to worry about it,” he said.
The regulations will most likely “require that we get the data that says how the testing will be done, how often it is going to be done and what the parameters they are going to have,” he said.
A big portion of that will be to check in which direction the devices are aimed, he said.
“If it is aimed right, it should be fine. If it is not aimed right, it is a problem. So you require testing to make sure it is aimed right,” Ritchie said.
In addition to ensuring safety, the city needs control over the potential use of city rights of way by cellphone and wireless companies for mini tower structures to ensure aesthetics, Ritchie said.
While the devices may be put on existing utility poles, companies could also build new mini towers, he said.
The devices would conceivably be located along the city’s main thoroughfares, he said.
Port Angeles devices
Port Angeles already has such devices throughout the city, he said.
“They are located on the city of Port Angeles’ telephone polls,” Ritchie said.
New regulations are important because companies “come in, build the towers and then lease them to AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and all those other companies,” he said.
“There is an effort to try and find locations, get permits, get the towers in and then go see if they can lease them. We don’t want to be involved in that kind of a speculative thing.”
After regulations are adopted, “then we will be able to work with companies that get their permits to go ahead and take care of the installation and then the leasing,” Ritchie said.
“I don’t think the city is against better access for Wi-Fi and cellphone coverage.”