Town writing provisions for telecommunications poles

How to regulate new cell antennas, both in Farragut commercial areas and neighborhoods, was part of the discussion among committee members at Farragut Municipal Planning Commission meeting Thursday evening, Feb. 16.

The Town has been considering a request by telecommunications company, Zayo. Zayo had applied to install three “small cell antennas” in August. These small antennas are usually mounted on a utility pole and are usually the height of whatever they’re being mounted to, said Mark Shipley, Community Development director for town of Farragut.

To boost cell signals in heavy usage areas such as Turkey Creek, this additional cell equipment may be attached to existing utility poles.

But committee members said the possibility exists for poles, up to 50 feet tall, to be erected in existing neighborhoods.

Shipley said a draft of provisions for regulating these poles has been written by area telecommunications expert Larry Perry. That draft currently is being revised by Town staff and others.

For now, antennas must be attached to an existing structure, Shipley said, such as a light pole, the top of a clubhouse or a water tower, but he can’t say what will happen in the future.

Shipley said the Town would likely see small cell towers added to utility poles in public rights of ways, probably including the placement of small cell structures in three different locations in the Parkside Drive area.

“It is likely that additional requests for these types of structures will be submitted in the near future from other service providers,” he said.

“It’s unlikely we’ll see any more big towers,” Shipley added during the meeting. “But we could have a lot of smaller poles that serve the 5G technology.

“They could potentially go into existing neighborhoods. If you know they’re going to be adding three 35-foot poles in a subdivision, you could do that in the front end.”

The tall cell towers, or mono towers, are to be “stealth”— made to blend in with the environment. An example, off Concord Road, has artificial pine branches. Tall towers also are along Virtue and Fretz roads.

“Where could people turn if they didn’t want a pole?” Alderman Louise Povlin said. “Or is there someone people could turn to to verify whether a pole really needs to be there?”

Shipley responded that a third-party evaluator, such as Perry, could do that.

“Everybody wants their cell phone coverage,” FMPC chair Rita Holladay said. “But they want the tower in someone else’s backyard.”