SDN Communications infographic

By John Mullen

May 24, 2019 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA®) – When phone providers start coming to town looking to expand small-cell technology in Orange Beach the city wants to have an ordinance ready for them.

“No carrier is just going to come in there and say I’m going to put the pole here because I have the right to do it because the FCC says so,” Councilman Jerry Johnson said. The city council discussed the ordinance during its work session on May 21. The city holds dual sessions the first and third Tuesdays of the month starting with a regular session and ending up with the work session. This ordinance will likely be voted on at the next regular session on June 4.

Jerry JohnsonAccording to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association website, “A small cell installation consists of small radio equipment and antennas that can be placed on structures such as streetlights, the sides of buildings, or poles. They are about the size of a pizza box, and are essential for transmitting data to and from a wireless device.”

The key, the website said, is to have them in greater density to take advantage of higher download and connection speeds “because in addition to traditional low-band spectrum, they can transmit data using mid- and high-band spectrum—and those airwaves cannot travel as far.”

Johnson, also chairman of the city’s Telecommunications Committee, says the technology will be used to support the next generation of technology riding on 5G.

“We embrace small-cell technology,” Johnson said. “It is a good technology and it’s what’s going to bring 5G in our area. Not necessarily in the immediate future but somewhere down the road.”

But without an ordinance in place the companies could come in and put the poles for the network where they want and also choose how they look. Getting this ordinance in place before the first carrier decides to come in will give the city some say on where they can be placed and what they’ll look like.

“No, you don’t have the right to do what you want, here’s our ordinance,” Johnson said. “If a city has an ordinance in place the carriers cannot override those. But we’ll work with you though. We’re not going to try to block it, we embrace the technology but we want to have a voice on where that pole’s going to be and keeping with the aesthetics of this city.”

Kit Alexander Community Development Director Kit Alexander says there will be limits on the poles, where they can be placed and the size of the equipment mounted on those poles.

“Basically, the primary components of this ordinance are to limit the height of the poles,” Alexander said. “We are going to limit them to 40 feet. That is in line with the limitation on single-family residences. We are going to be setting a minimum spacing amount of 200 feet on each side of the street. All of these poles will have to be 200 feet from poles located on the same side of the street.”

As far as looks, Alexander said the poles will have to match similar poles in the areas of town where they are placed.

“We’re going to have green decorative poles on 161 and beach boulevard and black elsewhere to match those pretty acorn lights you see in some of our neighborhoods,” Alexander said.

During the regular session, the council also:

  • Passed an ordinance establishing the annual salary of the mayor, chairman pro-tem, and councilmembers to be paid bi-weekly.
  • Approved a liquor license for Coastal Café and for Repicci's Real Italian Ice at Phoenix West II.
  • Passed a resolution authorizing the purchase of real property from Charles Baxter for $$135,000. The lot is on Nancy Lane adjacent to several other city-owned parcels in the area including the library and art center. This lot is south of Nancy Lane Townhomes and north of a lot on the corner of Nancy Lane and Canal Road the city bought about three years ago. Baldwin County tax records say it is a 90-foot by 100-foot lot and valued at $84,600 on Oct. 1, 2018.
  • Passed a resolution authorizing an agreement to with the American Red Cross for a licensed training provider for the Orange Beach Aquatics Center.
  • Passed a resolution authorizing the execution of a task order with McCollough Architecture to provide architectural services and electrical and structural engineering for a Utilities Department Office Building in an amount not to exceed $46,750.
  • Passed a resolution authorizing the Mayor to execute Change Order No. 2 with MD Thomas Construction for the Art Center shoreline stabilization and boardwalk project in an amount not to exceed $3,137.60.

During the work session, the council also discussed:

  • A resolution authorizing a contract with Sawgrass Consulting to provide a master stormwater analysis for the Orange Beach Recreation for $22,500.
  • A resolution authorizing the execution of a subaward grant agreement with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) for the Restore Act-funded “Lower Perdido Bay/Perdido Pass Navigation Project Hydrological Modeling and Sediment Budget Study” in an amount not to exceed $475,000.
  • An ordinance amendment to add an exception to the lighting provisions of the 2018 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code.
  • An ordinance amendment to add a new Article VIII entitled, “Small Wireless Facilities.”
  • Setting a public hearing date for an ordinance amendment to the planned unit development for Caribe East & West with a suggested date of June 18.
  • Reminder of a public hearing and first reading on June 4 for an ordinance amendment on the planned unit development at Pandion Ridge for a minor modification.