The Burlingame City Council unanimously approved a moratorium on cell phone antenna construction at its meeting Tuesday night.
This decision comes after months of discussion on the necessity of an ordinance governing antenna construction and backlash against cell tower applications issued by Extenet and T-Mobile.
“There has been a outpouring of concern and opposition,” said City Attorney Gus Guinan.
Upon learning of Extenet and T-Mobile plans, residents spoke out, saying the information provided by the companies was incomplete and pushing for a moratorium until more information on the antennas and installation process was made clear and Burlingame developed an ordinance regulating such antennas.
When ExteNet and T-Mobile applied with the Public Works Department to install cell phone antennas within the city in October 2010, only regulations existed regarding satellite dishes and other antennae attached to roofs--not those used for cell phones.
According to a staff report, "the purpose of the moratorium is to provide time for the City Council and the City to study and consider this issue prior to adopting a comprehensive city ordinance addressing this matter."
Although initially the moratorium applied only to future applicants, residents and council members pushed for the moratorium to retroactively cover Extenet and T-Mobile’s applications, as well.
“I fully support the idea of the moratorium; I think we believe it should be retroactive,” said resident Mark Wilson. “The moratorium serves as a signal that this city is willing to be aggressive with the telecommunications industry.”
While Guinan said the current applicants might invoke the unreasonable delay provision of Federal regulations if the moratorium is retroactively applied to them, a resident and wireless industry executive Steve Lamont expressed his support of including Extenet and T-Mobile anyway.
“From a business perspective, there are some very good reasons to included them in the moratorium,” he said, including a desire for good long-term relationships. “I’m hoping they’ll come to the table and join us at the discussion session.”
The final moratorium approved retroactively including Extenet and T-Mobile and providing exception for maintenance and repair of existing wireless facilities.
The moratorium had to obtain four of five member "yes" vote from the council, and will last 45 days. It can then be extended for up to 10 months and 15 days. It can be extended twice, but cannot exceed two years.
The council will hold an informational session on October 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the Lane Community Room to gather more information on the telecommunications industry and antenna installation.