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Wireless ordinance could be OK'd

By ABBY SOUZA

At tomorrow's Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors meeting, the ordinance dealing with wireless facilities might finally find its place in the county law books.

The wireless communication facilities ordinance will regulate placement, construction, upkeep and removal of towers used to connect wireless devices — like cellular telephones — to other forms of wired and wireless communication.

The county has been working on the ordinance for nearly two years.

In the past several months, the board has solved many of the problems the public, planning commissioners, wireless companies and board members themselves have had with the proposed ordinance guidelines.

At a January meeting, the board eliminated proposed height limits on minor communication towers, the antennas used to get wireless connections from people's homes. Supervisors also set a security fee of at least $5,000 for large communication towers to subsidize the cost of tearing down towers once they are abandoned or unusable.

At a February meeting, the board took two more steps toward fixing the ordinance. Buffer zones — the distance any wireless tower can sit from a property line — was set at 500 feet, instead of 1,000 feet as stated in the original proposal.

The board also decided service gaps — areas where wireless devices can't receive signals — would be filled by a single company's tower. This would allow all wireless devices to get service, but some users' calls would be considered out-of-area and be charged "roaming" rates, which are higher than usual per-minute fees.

With all the issues addressed, supervisors could vote to approve the ordinance at tomorrow's meeting. Community Development Director Bev Shane said if it is passed, the ordinance will go into effect in 30 days.

Although a public hearing on the ordinance was not on the board's agenda when it was released Friday, the board clerk changed the agenda to allow for one.


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