PARKERSBURG - Wood County Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend the county commission keep the county's current wireless telecommunications ordinance.
Brian Tregoning from Fox Engineering and Center for Municipal Solutions outlined his firm's services relating to cell towers, which would have included drafting a proposed new cell tower ordinance for the county. Under the proposed process, an escrow account for $8,500 would have been set up by the applicant.
The firm bills at an hourly rate, which is taken from that account, with leftover funds returned to the developer; there is no charge to the county for the services, Tregoning said.
Photo by Pamela Brust
Wood County Emergency Management Director Ed Hupp looks over county floodplain maps at Wednesday’s planning commission meeting.
"We just help counties and cities review and update their ordinances, manage applications; the county would still have the ultimate authority; we just add our own expertise," Tregoning told county planners. He said the firm is providing these services in 34 states.
He told the planning commission the firm is not in an adversarial position with telecommunication companies. "We just regulate adherence to the ordinance," he said.
Speaking in opposition to the proposal, Parkersburg attorney Robert Goldenberg, representing AT&T, told planners the county has an ordinance that works and has had no problems with the telecommunications firms.
"Why impose more regulations that just create another layer of problems for businesses that want to come into your community offering new services to attract more business, development, and create jobs? It's a wireless world and businesses need these services and if they don't have them they may go elsewhere to invest," Goldenberg said.
"We have enough regulations and the ones we have are fine," Goldenberg said, noting additional regulations would drive up costs and create delays.
Andy Feeney with AT&T told the planning commission "this is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist."
AT&T representatives told planners the county's ordinance doesn't need to be replaced.
County engineer Bill Brown told the planning commission structural engineers have to inspect the towers, at the telecommunication company's expense, and the ordinance includes state regulations, including requiring co-habitation on towers as much as possible.
"Our system is working well for our needs and I recommend you stay with the current ordinance," Brown told commissioners.
In a letter to the planning commission, Bethanne Cooley, director of state legislative affairs with CTIA, The Wireless Association, urged the planning commission to reject the proposal, which she called "unnecessary and could hamper broadband deployment in the county and state, thereby negatively impacting West Virginia's wireless consumers."
By the end of 2012, U.S. wireless carriers' cumulative capital investment totaled more than $378 billion, Cooley said.
AT&T officials said their company has had three applications filed for cell towers since 2008 in Wood County.
The planning commission's recommendation to reject Fox's proposal will be forwarded to the county commission.
In other business, planners approved proposed changes and updates to the county's floodplain ordinance, which will be forwarded to the county commission for two hearings. If approved, those changes will be in effect Nov. 6, Wood County Emergency Management Director Ed Hupp said.
The floodplain maps were created in 1985; revisions are done by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The proposed changes in the floodplain ordinance were forwarded to planners before the meeting for their review.
Hupp said earlier some of the flood elevations have changed, but no base elevations have increased; in some cases they have decreased slightly. So some properties that were in might now be out of the flood zone. The base flood elevation in the Parkersburg area is about 610 feet.
In 1968, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program to provide a means for property owners to financially protect themselves. Wood County joined the program in 1977.
Regulations require buildings in the floodplain be elevated to a required height above flood level; a surveyor and engineer must certify the elevation.