In balancing the interests of Town residents, tower contractors, telecommunications providers and telecommunications customers, and for the general health, safety and welfare of the public, these regulations are intended to:
Provide for the appropriate location and development of communications towers by maximizing the use of any new and existing towers, minimizing the need for new towers, encouraging the use of alternative tower structures or tower sites, and minimizing the number of towers in the Town. (Note: The term "existing towers" includes towers already constructed and in use, as well as towers submitted to the Town/St. Mary's County Department of Planning and Zoning for review and approval. The Department of Planning and Zoning will continuously maintain a list of existing towers, including owner points of contact, and shall make this list available to all new tower applicants.)
Avoid potential damage to adjacent properties from tower or antenna failure through engineering and careful siting of tower structures and antennas; and
Minimize the adverse visual impacts of communications towers through careful siting, design, screening and camouflaging.
Ensure that proposed siting and development of communications towers is done in a reasonable manner, not to the detriment of the zone in which it is located, and is not contrary to the intent of the Comprehensive Plan.
All communications towers, structures and equipment shall meet or exceed current standards and regulations of the FAA and the FCC. Pursuant to Federal Communications Commission Regulations 1.1301 through 1.1319, as amended from time to time, communications towers shall be subject to the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Approval of proposals for tower construction shall be subject to satisfactory completion of an aeronautical study. Applicants shall file a notice of proposed construction or alteration, FAA Form No. 7460-1 (as amended from time to time) with the Federal Aviation Administration as required by the FAA or applicable federal law, and forward copies of the form and any FAA response received, via first-class mail, postage prepaid, to the Commissioners of Leonardtown/Planning and Zoning, P.O. Box 1, Leonardtown, Maryland 20650; to the Department of the Navy, Commanding Officer, Naval Air Station, 22268 Cedar Point Road, Unit NASAD, Patuxent River, Maryland 20670-1154; to St. Mary's County Department of Planning and Zoning, P.O. Box 653, Leonardtown, Maryland 20650; and to the County's Airport Manager, P.O. Box 653, Leonardtown, Maryland 20650.
To the extent permitted by law, no tower or equipment or antennas attached thereto shall cause localized interference with reception of television and radio broadcasts, nor shall any tower or equipment or antennas attached thereto interfere with existing lines of communication used for public safety purposes.
Commercial communications towers.
Commercial communications towers shall in all cases require special exception use approval by the Town Board of Appeals in the I-O Zoning Districts.
The application submitted by the applicant to the Planning and Zoning Commission and to the Town Board of Appeals shall satisfactorily address the requirements of special exception use applications as defined by this Chapter 155 for any special exception whatsoever, as amended from time to time, and shall in addition include the following:
A system design plan that shall include, at a minimum, radio frequency parameters, tower height, number and location of antennas on the tower, radio frequency output, effective radiated power and azimuth antenna type;
Signal coverage/propagation map of the area to be served by the proposed tower;
Signal coverage/propagation map showing coverage area available under existing towers, proposed towers already submitted for review and approval, and antennas/equipment installed on other structures (water towers, buildings, etc.);
Evaluation of the tower's relationship to other antenna sites, existing buildings taller than 50 feet, communications towers and water tanks within a one-mile radius of the proposed tower;
A detailed engineering analysis of the proposed new tower, including a summary of the proposed tower's capacity to provide space for future collocation by others;
Federal Communications Commission review, evaluation and approval under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, applicable Federal Communications Commission regulations and standards through the Office of Engineering and Technology as required by federal law;
Identification with specificity of the type of tower to be constructed and the proposed materials to be used in the construction of the tower;
The design of the proposed tower shall be sealed by a licensed engineer licensed to practice in the State of Maryland;
Identification of all noise, odor and other potential nuisance-producing facilities, appurtenances and/or outbuildings, or the like, that are associated with the proposed use;
Identification of the maximum number of antennas that can be safely placed upon the tower;
An elevation drawing, depicting the tower at its proposed height, with all planned antennas/equipment shown; and
A visual impact study, including photo-simulations, demonstrating that a proposed tower shall not unreasonably interfere with the view of, or from, sites of significant public interest such as a public park, a state-designated scenic road, a structure on the historic sites survey, an historic district, or water views located within one mile of the proposed tower site. The Planning and Zoning Commission or the Town Board of Appeals may require the applicant to conduct balloon tests and to submit additional photo-simulations documenting the visual impact the proposed tower may have on surrounding sites.
Collocation feasibility; alternatives analysis.
The applicant for a new commercial communications tower shall demonstrate to the Planning and Zoning Commission/Board of Appeals that collocation on existing commercial towers, public safety towers, or other appropriate structures is not feasible. Feasibility shall be demonstrated by an analysis and explanation prepared by the applicant which identifies any reasonable, technically feasible, alternative locations and/or facilities which would provide the proposed communications service and a structural analysis indicating that no existing or proposed tower can be structurally modified to meet the applicant's needs. Replacement of an existing approved tower with a new tower on the same site shall be an alternative addressed in the analysis.
The intention of the alternatives analysis is to present alternative strategies which would minimize the number, size and adverse environmental and public safety impacts of facilities necessary to provide the needed services to the Town/county. The analysis shall address the potential for collocation at an existing or a new site and the potential to locate facilities as close as possible to the intended service area. It shall also explain the rationale for selection of the proposed site in view of the relative merits of any of the feasible alternatives. Physical constraints may be considered, but will not be determinative. Approval of the project is subject to the Town Board of Appeals making a finding that the proposed site results in fewer or less severe impacts than any feasible alternative site.
Collocation is not deemed possible if the Board of Appeals finds that:
Planned equipment would exceed the structural capacity of existing and approved towers or towers proposed to be constructed, considering existing and planned use of those towers, and such towers cannot be structurally modified or reinforced to accommodate planned or equivalent equipment. In the case of existing towers owned by the applicant, the applicant shall have demonstrated to the Planning and Zoning Commission or the Board of Appeals that a new (replacement) tower cannot be constructed on the existing approved site to satisfy its new requirements;
Planned equipment will cause interference with other existing or planned equipment for the tower, and the interference cannot be prevented;
Existing, approved towers, or towers proposed to be constructed, do not have space on which planned equipment can be placed so as to function effectively; or
Existing, approved towers, or towers proposed to be constructed, will not provide significant signal coverage sought by the applicant.
The tower shall be constructed so as to provide adequate capacity for future collocation of other commercial and/or government-operated antennas, unless the applicant demonstrates why such design is not physically feasible. The system design plan shall delineate areas near the base of the tower to be used for the placement of additional equipment buildings for other users.
No signals, lights or illumination shall be permitted on the tower unless required by the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration or the Town.
No commercial advertising or other signage shall be permitted on the tower.
All obsolete or unused facilities, including buildings, towers, and all other improvements associated with the tower, shall automatically be deemed abandoned upon 24 months of continuous cessation of operations and shall be removed at such time without cost to the Town.
Towers shall be constructed at the minimum height required to obtain significant signal coverage. Towers exceeding a height of 199 feet above existing grade shall require detailed engineering justification, documenting the basis for determining that a taller structure is required. Towers exceeding 199 feet above existing grade may also be justified by demonstrating that the existence of previously approved tower(s) in the vicinity of the proposed site serves to mitigate visual impacts, or that a single (taller) tower will reduce adverse visual impact by replacing multiple existing towers.
The site shall be of sufficient size (at least 7,500 square feet) to protect adjacent properties from harmful effects, and of a size sufficient to meet Health Department standards if water and sanitary facilities are provided. The site plan shall depict the tower site and all adjoining properties; means of ingress/egress; and setback for collapse radius.
Antennas or towers shall be at least a distance which is equal to 100% of the height of the tower from any residence, historic site, building or other facility not associated with the tower site. If the setback is to be on an adjoining property, a notarized statement of agreement must be obtained from the adjoining property owner. A reduced setback, equal to the designed radius for self-collapsing-type towers, may be authorized. A signed and sealed plan shall be submitted by a registered professional engineer, registered in the State of Maryland, in order to qualify for the reduced setback. The plan shall indicate the designed radius for collapse of the tower. The reduced setback shall be equivalent to the designed collapse radius or equal to 50% of the height of the tower, whichever is greater and approved by the Board of Appeals.