How much setback from homes do cities and towns across the United States require of cell towers?
Gaithersburg has banned cell towers in the public rights-of-way in residential neighbors.
Howard County has a tiered approach.
Communities Taking Action from page Cell Towers:
The Town of Burlington, Massachusetts proactively adopted a small cell policy in October 2018 and when they included a fee assessed on the telecom vendors for an annual recertification, the Verizon lawyer withdrew their applications for seven small cell systems:
Burlington Cable Access Television reported, "Verizon Drops Small Cell Wireless Booster Application in Face of Fees":
To see how the conversation went at the Board of Selectmen meeting, skip ahead to any of the following segments (other non-related items are covered at the beginning of the meeting):
94:19 Discussion of their small cell policy, which is approved unanimously; the woman on the right is the town's lawyer who provides good insights
113:50 Open public hearing on Verizon's seven small cell applications
147:39 Verizon lawyer withdraws their applications
The town established a website to share with the public each of the small cell applications, letters of concern, staff comments and reports. These provide a view into what this process looks like when telecoms submit applications, how municipalities can retain control, and how citizens can engage in the process. You'll find their Small Cell Policy and their Application checklist here:
The local Burlington cable station, WBCAT TV, produced a 70-minute program called BNEWS In Depth: Potential Dangers of Wireless Tech; Burlington Small Cells Policy which can serve as an example for other communities to emulate:
2. Citizens in Shelburne, MA worked with their town and adopted by-laws to include a 1,500' setback from residences
and 3,000' setback from schools.
Former Governor Edmund Brown vetoed SB 649 on October 15, 2017, saving every California city and county from having their zoning powers taken away and saving every Californian from being blasted with radiation from a cell antenna wherever telecom wanted to put it. But telecom is back in 2021, with several awful bills to accomplish the same thing: SB 556, AB 537, SB 378, SB 28, AB 955 and others, but especially those first two.
Calabasas: no placement in residential areas, open space, parks or playgrounds; 150% fall zone requirement.
The City of Elk Grove has adopted what I call the "front yard rule" into our zoning code. This rule says that a cell antenna cannot be immediately adjacent to or immediately across the street from the front yard of any residential dwelling. That probably protects 90% of the homes in Elk Grove from a having a cell antenna placed near them.
The City of Petaluma has done it even better. There they do not allow cell antennas in residential zones. Only commercial or industrial. Here's the key section of that ordinance:
14.44.095 Small Cell facilities – Basic Requirements.
Small Cell facilities as defined in Section 14. 44. 020 of this chapter may be installed, erected,
maintained and/ or operated in any commercial or industrial zoning district where such antennas
are permitted under this title, upon the issuance of a minor conditional use permit, so long as all
the following conditions are met:
A. The Small Cell antenna must connect to an already existing utility pole that can support its weight.
B. All new wires needed to service the Small Cell must be installed within the width of the existing utility pole so as to not exceed the diameter and height of the existing utility pole.
C. All ground – mounted equipment not installed inside the pole must be undergrounded, flush to the ground, within three ( 3) feet of the utility pole.
D. Each Small Cell must be at least 1, 500 feet away from the nearest Small Cell facility.
E. Aside from the transmitter/ antenna itself, no additional equipment may be visible.
F. Each Small Cell must beat least 500 feet away from any existing or approved residence.
G. An encroachment permit must be obtained for any work in the public right- of-way.
Ordinance No. 2662 N. C. S. Page 5-6
City of Santa Cruz: prohibits placement in residential areas, natural areas and strong preference that not be “highly visible from adjacent roadways, public areas, parks, schools, greenbelts or other visually sensitive areas.” There is a 1,000 foot separation requirement.
Fairfax: small cell prohibited in residential areas; eligible facilities and Gov. Code 65850.6 collocations are allowed.
Mill Valley: no installations in residential areas other than exempt facilities and additional collocation under Gov. Code 65850.6.
Santa Cruz County: prohibits placement in residential areas.
Sonoma: no installations in residential areas other than small wireless facilities; 1,500 foot separation in ROW from other wireless facilities
Suisun City: 500 foot setback from residence and 1,500 from other wireless facilities.
Walnut City: towers and antennas shall not be located within 1,500 feet of any school (nursery, elementary, junior high, and high school), trail, park or outdoor recreation area, sporting venues, and residential zones. 1,500 separation from other antennas; Monopoles and alternative antenna support structures shall be located a minimum of one-half mile from any other monopole or alternative support structure.
Montgomery County can do this too! Either one of them. Adopt either the "front yard rule" or keep cell antennas out of residential zones. Either way they must build an appeal process for case by case review of cell antenna applications into the County code. Attorney Andrew Campanelli knows this extremely well through practicing this area of law for 28 years. He would be the best person for the County to contact and hire as an outside attorney to help prepare a zoning text amendment.
What manufactures are saying about the maximum distance
Here's an example for high band millimeter wave, from the equipment makers, talking about 3500 feet, although this was September 2019 and the carriers likely have a lot more real-world experience since then:
"millimeter wave towers at typical distances of 1.7 kilometers (1.06 miles) in rural environments or 1.1 kilometers (0.68 miles) in urban settings, though maximum unobstructed distances can be even longer."