Cell Tower Regulations
Section 90G. Wireless Telecommunication Facilities
Wireless telecommunication facilities are allowed in all zoning districts as conditional uses. In the R-20 & R-15 zoning districts, stealth or total concealment technology will be required. Concealment shall be the goal of the applicant and stealth or concealment technology may be required in other zones when deemed appropriate by the Planning Board.
90G.1 Conditional Use Permit Required
It shall be unlawful for any person to place, construct or modify any wireless telecommunication facility within the jurisdiction of Caldwell County without first obtaining a Wireless Telecommunication Facility Conditional Use Permit. Permits shall be regulated as follows:
A. Applications for Conditional Use Permits will be classified and processed in one of the following categories depending on the characteristics of the proposed installation:
1. Installations utilizing existing structures
2. Telecommunications towers
3. Modifications to approved facilities
B. A Conditional Use Permit shall become null and void if the permitted facility is not constructed and placed in service within one year of the date of the County’s approval provided, however, that the permit may be extended one time for six (6) months if the Zoning Administrator determines that substantial construction has commenced before expiration of the initial year.
C. Nonconforming telecommunication towers in existence on the date of enactment of this Section shall be exempt from the Conditional Use Permit requirements. However, any increase in height of such a nonconforming telecommunication tower shall be subject to the provisions of this section.
90G.2 Applicant’s Certifications
An application for a Conditional Use Permit for a wireless telecommunication facility shall not be deemed complete until the applicant certifies that:
A. it has not constructed, maintained, operated or modified any wireless telecommunication facility within Caldwell County’s zoning jurisdiction without the approval of Caldwell County; and
B. if it has constructed, maintained, operated or modified any wireless
telecommunication facility within Caldwell County’s zoning jurisdiction without the approval of Caldwell County that it has ceased operating and has removed all above-ground portions of such facilities (not including any part of the foundation); and
C. the proposed wireless telecommunication facility complies with and at all times will be maintained and operated in accordance with, all applicable FCC rules and regulations with respect to environmental effects of electromagnetic emissions; and
D. any telecommunication tower to be constructed as part of the proposed wireless telecommunications facility is not required to be lighted or painted by rules and regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration; and
E. all improvements constructed as part of the wireless telecommunication facility shall comply with the Uniform Building Code, National Electrical Code, Uniform Plumbing Code, Uniform Mechanical Code, Uniform Fire Code, and structural standards of the Electronic Industries Association/
Telecommunications Industry Association, where applicable.
90G.3 FCC License Required
The applicant for a wireless telecommunication facility Conditional Use Permit must currently be licensed by the FCC to provide fixed or mobile wireless communication services or, if the applicant is not such an FCC licensee, must demonstrate that it has binding commitments from one or more FCC licensees to utilize the proposed wireless telecommunication facility. An application for a Conditional Use Permit shall not be deemed complete unless it is accompanied by a copy of each applicant’s or tenant’s FCC license and, if the applicant is not an FCC licensee, the Zoning Administrator shall verify that the applicant holds executed leases from each FCC licensee proposing to locate wireless facilities at the site. If a copy of an FCC license has previously been supplied to the Zoning Administrator in conjunction with an application for a wireless telecommunication facility, the Applicant may certify that such license remains valid in lieu of submitting an additional copy of such license.
90G.4 Electromagnetic emissions compliance
Wireless telecommunication facilities shall at all times comply with FCC standards for radio frequency emissions.
90G.5 Liability insurance
Prior to the issuance of a Conditional Use Permit that applicant shall be required to provide certificates of insurance demonstrating it has a minimum of $1,000,000 in general liability insurance covering any liability arising out of its construction or operation of the wireless telecommunication facility. The applicant shall be required to maintain such coverage in full force until such time as all above ground portions of the facility (not including any part of the foundation) have been removed and all other conditions of its Maintenance/Removal Agreement have been satisfied.
90G.6 Public property preference
Applicants shall first consider properties owned by Caldwell County, or instrumentalities thereof, including State and Federal properties, before considering private properties as locations for wireless telecommunication facilities. The Planning Department will provide an inventory of such properties. Public properties shall be subject to the same restrictions and standards of appropriateness as private properties. If suitable public properties cannot be located, justification shall be provided which clearly explains why the properties are not suitable and what alternatives were considered.
90G.7 Existing Structures
It is the policy of Caldwell County to encourage use of existing structures and co-location, therefore these locations shall be considered first. In furtherance of these policy objectives, wireless telecommunication facilities which do not require the placement or construction of a telecommunications tower, increases in tower height, or increases by the antenna apparatus of more than twenty (20) feet, and which otherwise meet the requirements of this Section, shall enjoy a streamlined approval process. For purposes of this Section, existing telecommunication towers or alternative structures requiring an increase of more than twenty (20) feet in height to accommodate a wireless telecommunication facility shall be treated the same as applications for a new or additional telecommunication tower.
A. Approval process. Applications for Conditional Use Permits for wireless telecommunication facilities which do not require a new or additional telecommunications tower, increases in tower height, or increases in height of alternative structures, may be approved by the Subdivision Review Board without a public hearing. Applications shall contain such information as required by this Section and, in addition, such other information as the Board shall deem necessary and appropriate. An application shall not be deemed complete until the application fee and maintenance/removal bond have been received by the County.
B. Maintenance/Removal Bond. An applicant for a Conditional Use Permit for a wireless telecommunication facility that does not include a new or additional telecommunications tower, or require an increase in tower height or heights of alternative structures, shall be required to post a $5,000 cash bond to secure the costs of maintaining the exterior appearance of the facility if the wireless provider fails to continually do so, or removing such facility in the event the applicant shall fail to do so within 90 days of abandonment or cessation of operation of the facility. The applicant shall be required to continue such bond or other security until such time as all above-ground portions of the facility (not including any part of the foundation) have been removed and all other requirements of its Maintenance/Removal Agreement have been satisfied. Private business users operating a single wireless telecommunication facility at their principal place of business and governmental users are exempt from the maintenance/removal bond.
90G.8 Maintenance/Removal Agreement
An application for a Conditional Use Permit shall be accompanied by those portions of an executed copy of a lease requiring the applicant to remove all above-ground portions of wireless telecommunication facilities (not including any part of the foundation) no later than ninety (90) days after cessation of operations. In addition, each applicant for a wireless telecommunication facility Conditional Use Permit shall execute a facility maintenance/removal agreement prior to issuance of the Conditional Use Permit. Said agreement shall bind the applicant and the applicant’s successors-in-interest to properly maintain the exterior appearance of and ultimately remove the facility in compliance with the provisions of this Section and any conditions of approval. It shall further bind them to pay all costs for monitoring compliance with, and enforcement of, the agreement and to reimburse the County for all costs incurred to perform any work required of the applicant by the agreement that the applicant fails to perform. Such costs shall include, but not be limited to, administrative and job supervision costs. It shall also specifically authorize the County and/or its agents to enter onto the property and undertake said work so long as the Zoning Administrator has first provided the applicant the following written notices at the applicant’s last known address:
A. An initial compliance request identifying the work needed to comply with the agreement and providing the applicant at least thirty (30) days to complete the work; and
B. A follow-up notice of default specifying the applicant’s failure to comply with the work within the time period specified and indicating the County’s intent to commence the required work within ten (10) days.
90G.9 Abandonment and removal
Abandoned or unused wireless telecommunication facilities shall be removed as follows:
A. All abandoned or unused wireless telecommunication facilities located above ground (not including any part of the foundation) that are not removed within ninety (90) days of the cessation of operations, the facility may be removed as provided in the applicant’s Maintenance/Removal Agreement by the County and the costs of removal recovered from the applicant’s bond or other security.
90G.10 Nonconforming Uses
Any wireless telecommunication facility in existence on the date of enactment of this Section which does not comply in all respects with these provisions shall be deemed a nonconforming use. Such pre-existing facilities may not be increased in height without complying with these provisions. In the event such facility shall be destroyed, or suffer damage in excess of 50% of the tax value of the facility’s improvements, such facility shall not be repaired or replaced and shall be removed unless any replacement facility complies in all respects with the provisions of this Section. Except in the case of destruction or damage in excess of 50% of the tax value of the facility’s improvements, technological upgrades of electronics and antennas are permitted.
90G.11 New Towers Including Additions and Increases
In addition to the general requirements set forth above for wireless telecommunication facilities, applications for Conditional Use Permits for wireless telecommunication facilities requiring a new or additional telecommunication tower, increases in tower height, or increases in height of alternative structures, shall comply with the provisions of this Section. Such applications shall be reviewed and processed in accordance with the following provisions:
A. Approval process. Applications for telecommunication towers, increases in tower height of more than twenty (20) feet, or increases in height of alternative structures, shall be submitted in writing to the Zoning Administrator and shall contain all information required by this Section as well as any additional information the Zoning Administrator deems necessary and appropriate. A quasi-judicial public hearing shall be required before the Board of Commissioners before any decision to grant or deny an application. Public notice of the application and hearing shall be in accordance with the notice provisions set forth below. A hearing before the Caldwell County Planning Board will be held first to receive public input and recommendations.
B. Application fee. Applications shall require payment of a nonrefundable fee for new tower sites or increase in the height of an existing tower. This fee shall be reduced when one (1) of the following criteria are met: 1) the applicant is utilizing existing publicly owned structures such as water tanks, school stadium lights and flag poles, 2) is locating within areas which are not zoned residential, 3) is utilizing an existing tower or structure which does not require an increase in height.
C. Maintenance and removal bond payable to Caldwell County. An applicant for a Conditional Use Permit for a wireless telecommunication facility that includes a new or additional telecommunication tower, increases in tower height, or for increases in height of alternative structures, shall be required to post a $10,000 cash bond, or other security satisfactory to the County, to secure costs of removing all above ground portions of a wireless telecommunication facility (not including any part of the foundation) in the event the applicant shall fail to do so within ninety (90) days of cessation of operation of the facility. The applicant shall be required to continue such bond or other security until such time as the facility has been removed and all other requirements of its Maintenance/Removal Agreement have been satisfied. Private business users operating a single wireless telecommunication facility at their principal place of business and governmental users are exempt from the bond requirement.
D. Public Notice. Notice of an application for a proposed telecommunication tower shall comply with the provisions of N.C.G.S. 153A-323 and 153A-343 as amended.
E. Notice to adjacent property owners.
F. Posted notice. A sign advertising the application for a proposed
telecommunication tower, and any scheduled public hearings, shall be posted by the Zoning Administrator in a prominent location on or near the parcel containing the proposed telecommunication tower, or on a nearby public road. Such signs shall be posted at least ten (10) days prior to any public hearings.
90G.12 Applicant’s Burden
The applicant for a telecommunications tower shall bear the burden of demonstrating by substantial evidence that a bona fide need exists for the proposed telecommunication tower and that no reasonable combination of locations, techniques or technologies will obviate the need for, or mitigate the height or visual impact of, the proposed telecommunications tower.
90G.13 Electric transmission towers
It is the policy of Caldwell County to encourage the use of electric transmission towers to deploy wireless infrastructure. In furtherance of that policy objective:
A. No telecommunications tower shall be approved if an electric transmission tower is located within a one quarter mile radius (1320) feet laterally of the proposed telecommunications tower site and if road access and necessary utilities can be obtained within a one quarter mile radius (1320) feet of the existing electric transmission tower, unless the applicant can demonstrate that sufficient easements or other interests in real property cannot be obtained to accommodate the wireless telecommunication facility, or that the electric utility owning the electric transmission tower is unwilling to allow its use for wireless facilities, or if the planned equipment would exceed the structural capacity of the existing electrical transmission tower.
B. Electric transmission towers less than one hundred (100) feet in height may be replaced by pressure-treated wooden or metal electric transmission towers up to one hundred (100) feet in height. Such replacement shall be at the discretion of the electric utility which owns or operates the electric transmission tower, taking into account safety, service disruptions, structural capacity and structure life or duty cycle. For purposes of this Section, such replacement electric transmission tower shall be deemed to be an existing structure.
90G.14 Presumption favoring existing structures
A proposal for a new or additional telecommunication tower shall not be approved unless the Board of Commissioners finds that the equipment planned for the proposed telecommunication tower cannot be accommodated on existing or approved towers, buildings or alternative structures more than thirty (30) feet in height (after first considering electric transmission towers) within a one quarter mile search radius (1320 feet) of the proposed telecommunication tower site due to one or more of the following reasons:
A. The planned equipment would exceed the structural capacity of the
existing or approved tower, building or structures, as documented by a qualified and licensed North Carolina professional engineer, and the existing or approved tower, building or structure cannot be reinforced, modified or replaced to accommodate planned or equivalent equipment at a reasonable cost.
B. The planned equipment would cause interference materially impacting the usability of other existing or planned equipment at the tower, building or other structure as documented by a qualified and licensed North Carolina engineer and the interference cannot be prevented at a reasonable cost.
C. Existing or approved towers, buildings or other structures within the search radius, or combinations thereof, cannot accommodate the planned equipment at a height necessary to function reasonably as documented by a qualified and licensed North Carolina professional engineer.
D. Other unforeseen reasons that make it infeasible to locate the planned telecommunications equipment upon an existing or approved tower, building or other structure.
90G.15 Tower Height Limitations
The height of any telecommunication tower shall be limited in accordance with the following provisions:
A. Protected mountain ridges:
1. Where the tower site is surrounded by a dense mature vegetative canopy within 100 feet of the tower site, the tower shall not extend more than thirty (30) feet higher than the average height of the mature vegetative canopy found within 500 feet of the site.
2. Where no vegetative canopy exists within 100 feet of the tower site, the maximum tower height shall be 60 feet.
B. Towers not on a protected mountain ridge.
1. Shall not exceed 110 feet.
2. However, where the tower site is surrounded by a dense vegetative canopy within 100 feet of the tower site, the tower may extend thirty (30) feet higher than the average height of the mature vegetative canopy found within 500 feet of the site.
90G.16 Tower Spacing
Telecommunication towers shall be located at least 2 miles from other telecommunication towers and no closer than a quarter mile to the perimeter line of an R-20 & R-15 Zones based upon a survey of surrounding sites using GPS or other methods provided by the applicant . Closer spacing may be recommended/approved by the Planning Board when the applicant can prove the need as set forth in Section 95.18(A) (1-4).
90G.17 Protected Federal Lands
If a proposed telecommunication tower is to be located within two miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Pisgah National Forest the applicant shall be required to submit a copy of its application to the appropriate Federal land manager for review and comment and shall provide a copy of its transmittal letter to the Zoning Administrator to verify its compliance with this provision. The responsible Federal land manager shall have sixty days to review the application prior to its consideration by the Board of Commissioners.
90G.18 Co-location Requirements
To minimize cumulative visual impacts, it is the policy of Caldwell County to encourage co-location of new wireless telecommunication facilities with existing and planned facilities whenever feasible and aesthetically desirable. All wireless telecommunication towers erected, constructed, or located within Caldwell County shall comply with the following co-location requirements.
A. A proposal for a new commercial wireless telecommunication tower shall not be approved unless the Board of Commissioners find that the telecommunications equipment planned for the proposed tower cannot be accommodated on existing or approved towers or alternative structures more than thirty (30) feet in height within one-quarter mile search radius of the proposed location due to one or more of the following reasons:
1. The planned equipment would exceed the structural capacity of the existing or approved towers, buildings or other structures, as documented by a qualified and licensed North Carolina professional engineer, and the existing or approved structure cannot be reinforced, modified or replaced to accommodate planned or equivalent equipment at a reasonable cost;
2. The planned equipment would cause interference materially
impacting the usability of other existing or planned equipment at the tower or building as documented by a qualified and licensed North Carolina professional engineer and the interference cannot be prevented at a reasonable cost;
3. Existing or approved towers, buildings or other structures within the search radius, or combination thereof, cannot accommodate the planned equipment at a height necessary to function reasonably as documented by a qualified and licensed North Carolina professional engineer, or;
4. Other unforeseen reasons that make it infeasible to locate the planned telecommunications equipment upon an existing or approved tower, building or other structure.
B. Except in the case of a telecommunications tower on a protected mountain ridge, any proposed wireless telecommunication tower over sixty (60) feet in height shall be designed structurally, electrically, mechanically and in all respects to accommodate both the applicant’s antennas and comparable antennas for at least one additional user. In the case of wireless telecommunication facilities placed on an electric transmission tower, co-location may not be required if the electric utility owning the tower determines that for structural, safety and operational reasons the tower cannot accommodate additional users. Towers must be designed to allow for future rearrangement of antennas upon the tower and to accept
antennas mounted at varying heights.
C. Antennas or antenna arrays employed as part of a wireless
telecommunication facility operated by a private business user,
governmental user or commercial wireless service provider may
not be co-located on a tower or other support structure used by an amateur radio operator.
90G.19 Tower and Antenna Design & Appearance Requirements
No Conditional Use Permit shall be approved for a telecommunication tower, increase in tower height, or increase in height of an alternative structure; unless the Board of Commissioners finds that the design standards of this section have been met. Proposed or modified towers and antennas shall meet the following design requirements:
A. Towers and antennas may be required to blend into the surrounding environment. Stealth or concealment technology may be required in areas deemed appropriate.
B. Guyed towers are prohibited. Commercial wireless telecommunication towers shall be of a monopole design unless the Board of Commissioners determines that an alternative design would better blend into the surrounding environment.
C. Use of polarized antennas which electronically combine the functions of transmit and receive antennas (rather than spatial diversity antenna arrays which rely on antennas being physically separated) and dual-band/multi-band antennas (allowing two or more providers of different types of commercial wireless services to share a common antenna) is encouraged.
D. Antennas shall be mounted on telecommunication towers so as to present the smallest possible silhouette, profile, or cross-section. Preferred antenna mounting scenarios are, in order of descending preference:
1. compact polarized antennas in a cylindrical unicell arrangement less than 22 inches in diameter mounted atop the tower;
2. panel antennas flush-mounted against the tower;
3. antennas mounted at the end of straight or curved davit arms or brackets extending from the sides of the tower.
E. No telecommunication tower shall have constructed thereon, or attached thereto, in any way, any platform, catwalk, crow’s nest, triangular framework, climbing devices (within the first 20 feet), or like structures or equipment, except during periods of construction or repair. Curved or straight davit arms or brackets used for antenna mounting shall be connected to the tower at the
base of the arms or brackets only and such arms or brackets (and any antennas or hardware mounted thereon) shall not be physically inter-connected with any similar arm or bracket.
F. All equipment enclosures and other improvements accessory to a tower shall be architecturally designed to blend in with the surrounding environment and shall be maintained in good appearance and repair. No equipment enclosure may exceed ten (10) feet in height. Ground mounted equipment shall be screened from view by suitable vegetation, except where a design of non-vegetative screening better reflects and complements the architectural character of the surrounding neighborhood.
G. To the greatest extent possible, wireless telecommunication facilities shall be designed to survive a natural disaster and wind sheer without interruption in operation.
H. Telecommunication towers, equipment enclosures and other
improvements shall be enclosed within a security fence consisting of chain link fencing at least eight (8) feet in height. The fence may be topped with barbed wire. It is required as a condition of approval that the fencing be screened by appropriate landscaping or other means.
90G.20 Fall zones, setbacks and buffers
Telecommunication towers shall conform to each of the following minimum setback requirements:
A. A fall zone clear of any dwellings on the parcel containing the
telecommunication tower (other than equipment enclosures associated with the wireless telecommunication facility) equal to one-half the height of the tower shall be required. Non-residential zones will have a zero fall zone. The minimum setback measured from the property line shall be equal to 100% of the telecommunication tower height.
B. Buffer. A buffer of a 100 foot radius consisting of the mature trees that comprised the vegetative canopy shall be maintained. In
residentially zoned areas where no vegetative canopy exists, a buffer of evergreen trees of a minimum of four (4) feet in height shall be provided and maintained and shall be part of the site development plan.
C. A telecommunication tower’s setback may be reduced or its location in relation to a public street varied, at the sole discretion of the Board of Commissioners, to allow the integration of a telecommunication device into an existing or proposed structure such as a church steeple, lighting structures, electric transmission tower, or similar structure.
90G.21 Tower Lighting
A. No telecommunication tower shall be of a type or height, or placed in a location that the Federal Aviation Administration would require the telecommunication tower to be lighted or painted.
B. Telecommunication towers shall not be illuminated by artificial means and shall not display strobe lights or other warning lighting unless, in a particular instance, the Board of Commissioners requires a telecommunication tower to be lit. The applicant shall be required to certify that the proposed telecommunication tower is not required to be painted or illuminated by any FAA rule or regulation.
C. When incorporated into the approved design of a tower, light fixtures used to illuminate ball fields, parking lots, or similar areas may be attached to the telecommunication tower.
D. A wireless telecommunication facility may utilize a security light
controlled by a motion-detection sensor at or near the entrance to the facility.
90G.22 Site Development Plans
A site development plan shall be prepared by a North Carolina registered land surveyor, landscape architect or professional engineer and shall contain the following information:
A. Provide a tree survey to determine density and average mature
vegetative canopy height within a 500 foot radius.
B. The name, address and telephone number of the applicant and the property owner, tax parcel identification number, scale, north arrow, a copy of the section of the 1:24,000 USGS quadrangle showing the proposed site and latitude and longitude coordinates.
C. The name, address and telephone number, signature and seal of the
professional preparing the site development plan.
D. All identifiable structures located on the parcel, all private and public roads, highways and underground and overhead utilities.
E. Surveyed boundary lines of the parcel containing the proposed
telecommunication tower construction and its fall zone.
F. All existing telecommunication towers on the property or any telecommunication tower whose fall zone encroaches onto the property.
G. Description of adjacent land use and all property owner names, tax
parcel numbers and mailing addresses.
H. The ground elevation of the proposed telecommunication tower’s base, all proposed support structures, property corners, and permanent site benchmark.
I. Site development plan shall be recorded and not subject to