Carmel City Council restricts small cell towers in advance of possible state law
The Carmel City Council March 20 unanimously passed an ordinance regulating small cellphone towers in the city limits. But the Indiana State Legislature is considering a law that could strip away local municipalities’ authorities on the issue.
Carmel’s ordinance would require written consent from the city before telecommunications companies can place small cell towers in public right-of-ways. The permit fee is $1,000. All antennae must be shielded inside a pole when erecting a cell tower. The antenna can be no more than 35 feet high and any panels or dish-shaped antenna can be no more than 7 cubic feet in volume. The distance from a small cell tower to the nearest building or home must be at least equal to the height of the home. They also can’t be closer than 1,200 feet from another personal wireless telecommunications facility, which prevents putting a small cell tower every 500 feet or so.
Senate Bill 478, which is a large bill that address numerous telecommunications issues, would allow telecommunications companies to place small cell towers in electrical easements in public right-of-way. Part of the goal of this bill is to improve telecommunications access in rural areas, but it’s a large bill. City Attorney Ashley Ulbricht said there’s a chance cities like Carmel could be grandfathered in if the state law passes, but she said it’s important to get something on the books because everything could change.
“As of now, we will have no control over our own right-of-way if this passes,” Ulbricht said.
City Council President Sue Finkam worries that if the law passes with no changes that companies would place small cell towers in multiple places to compete for cellphone coverage in the competitive telecommunications industry.
“I just think of all of the money we’re going to spend to beautify the Monon, and then they put these suckers all over the right-of-way,” Finkam said.