What is the role of the (TFCG)?
A: A 1995 task force report
recommended the creation of a Tower Coordinator position
within the Executive Branch and the designation of a person
within each land-owning and land use agency to work with
the Tower Coordinator.
In response to the taskforce
report, the County Council adopted a Zoning Text Amendment
(ZTA 95028) to regulate installation of telecommunications
facilities in the County to the extend permitted by federal
law. The legislation provided that the placement of antennas
and towers would be encouraged at less intrusive sites,
including industrial and commercial lands, existing buildings,
water towers, power transmission poles, and certain public
lands. Co-location of these kind of facilities is required
to minimize the negative impact on residential areas and
to diminish the multiplicity of towers. Another goal of
the process is to assist industry by ensuring a timely
review of applications and by providing a reliable process
among agencies. For the industry, a speedy and reliable
process is in place. Applications for antenna sites that
are allowed as a matter of right by the zoning ordinance
are typically approved within thirty days. Applications
involving sites that require a special exception for construction
of a new tower or monopole are evaluated more closely
and often take somewhat longer to receive a recommendation.
The County Executive proposed
and the County Council also adopted an Executive Regulation
(#14-96) which provides for the appointment of the Tower
Coordinator to serve as the primary point of contact for
industry representatives and the creation of the Telecommunications
Transmission Facilities Coordinating Group (Tower Committee)
to review tower site applications and make site recommendations.
The TFCG and the Tower Coordinator
actively engage member County government agencies to recommend
the most appropriate sites for new towers and monopoles
by evaluating requests filed with the TFCG. Of course,
the ultimate decision-making authority would remain with
each agency. The TFCG facilitates communications between
the member agencies and the carriers to achieve the desired
goals of the process.
The TFCG include members
from land owning agencies including the Department of
Transportation and Public Works, the Montgomery County
Public Schools, the Maryland-National Capital Parks and
Planning Commission, and the Washington Suburban Sanitary
Commission; from land use agencies, such as the Department
of Permitting Services; and the other parties involved
in telecommunications services for the County, the Office
of Cable Communications Administration, and the Office
of Management and Budget, and of course, the Department
of Technology Services, which has
authority for administration of the TFCG.
What is the role of the Tower Coordinator?
A: Applications for siting
of telecommunications facilities are submitted to the
Tower Coordinator who conducts a review to ensure that
they are complete. The review includes:
Verification with the County’s
Department of Permitting Services of the zoning of the
site for each application to determine whether the proposed
facilities are permitted “by right” or requires a special
applications for new monopoles against a database of all
existing telecommunications facilities to determine whether
an alternative site exists that could meet the applicant's
a database of existing wireless telecommunications facilities
in the county. The database is updated monthly with new
application information and annually with information
submitted by the telecommunications service providers
about all their sites.
Conducting an engineering
review to determine if new structures are needed and if
there are any radio frequency conflicts with other existing
facilities, compliance with transmission regulations,
or other technical issues for the TFCG to consider is
its review of the applications.
a recommendation on each siting request to the Tower Committee
regarding the zoning standards applicable to the application,
Co-location options, and the effect of the placement
of the facility on land-owing agencies, future telecommunications
plans, and its impact on the surrounding area.
Provide information to carriers,
the public, land owning public agencies, and land use
happens at the TFCG meetings?
A: The TFCG meetings
provide a forum for members to discuss siting issues,
review and comment on telecommunications transmission
facility policies of various agencies, and facilitate
communications between member agencies and between government
officials and the industry. The Committee also stays
current on federal legislation and FCC rulemakings which
affect tower siting and issues such as federal rules concerning
RF emissions. One of the added benefits of the Committee
is that each participating agency now has a person with
extensive knowledge about the telecommunications industry’s
needs and the appropriate involvement for local government.
At each meeting, the Tower
Coordinator will present a review of an application and
make a recommendation for action to the TFCG. The TFCG
discusses the application and then decides the appropriate
action to take in each case. The meetings typically last
one to two hours. The meetings are open to the public,
but these meetings are not the proper place for formal
public testimony or submission of materials regarding
The TFCG votes on whether
to “recommend” or “not recommend” an application allow
the applicant to move forward to the next step in the
process of constructing its facilities. The applicant
will either applying for a building permit to the County’s
Department of Permitting Services (DPS), or, if necessary,
apply to the Board of Appeals (BOA) for Special Exception
or Modification of Special Exception, or is referred to
the Maryland National Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC)
for a review under the County’s Mandatory Referral process.
The TFCG does not have “approval” authority, per se.
However, the DPS, the BOA, and the M-NCPPC verify that
the applicant has been through the TFCG process and those
agencies take the recommendation made by the TFCG on
each application into consideration as they perform their
formal public approval process.
When are TFCG meetings held?
Scheduled Meeting Dates
Are minutes from the TFCG meetings available?
A: TFCG Meeting Minutes
Where are new tower facilities permitted in the County?
A: The County’s Zoning
Ordinance allows certain types of construction to take
place as a matter of right, requiring only that a building
permit be issued by the Department of Permitting Services
prior to the start of construction. Other types of construction
are allowed only if a Special Exception is granted by
the Board of Appeals after review by the Planning Board.
Installation of telecommunications
facilities are encouraged at less intrusive sites, including
industrial and commercial lands, existing buildings, water
towers, power transmission poles, and certain public lands.
Wherever reasonably possible, Co-location of telecommunications
facilities is required to minimize the negative impact
on residential areas and to diminish the multiplicity
of towers. Telecommunications facilities are permitted
Industrial zones -
Monopoles are allowed as a matter of right up to 199 feet
in height, with a setback from the property lines of all
adjacent residential and agricultural zoned properties
of at least one foot for every foot of height.
zones - Monopoles are allowed as a matter of right
if they do not exceed the allowed building height of the
zone and meet a 1:1 setback from the property line, or
if located within the right-of-way of an overhead transmission
line not closer than 300 feet to any residence with a
monopole height not in excess of 199'. In all other cases
a special exception would be required.
zones - Monopoles are allowed as a matter of right
up to 150' in height with a setback of 1:1 from all adjacent
residential and agricultural zoned properties. In certain
specified zones a special exception would be required.
Antenna - Monopoles are allowed as a matter of right
on any building that is 30' or greater in height in industrial,
commercial or multi-family zones, and on any non-residential
building that is greater than 50' in height in single-family
Zones - Except for the above, the Zoning Text Amendment
did not change existing controls in residential zones;
a special exception is still required in most instances.
The filing fee for a special exception is high compared
to that of a building permit, and there is a minimum period
of 60 days between the submittal date of an application
and the date of the Board hearing to allow adequate time
for public review and comment. Carriers tend to view
new sites requiring a special exception as a last resort
because of the cost and the time delay.
Land - Private telecommunications antennas may be
attached as a matter of right to an existing structure
owned or operated by a county, bi-county, state or federal
agency. If a carrier wishes to construct a new privately
owned tower or monopole for the exclusive use of private
telecommunications carriers on publicly owned land, a
special exception is required. If the new tower or monopole
will be used by a government agency, the application is
submitted to the Planning Board rather than the Board
of Appeals and the application goes through a public review
process known as Mandatory Referral. Since this process
is shorter (60 days maximum) and less costly than the
special exception process, there is an incentive for applicants
to work with government agencies to identify compatible
uses with the government for facilities on public lands.
What are alternatives to construction of a new tower in
A: In reviewing applications,
the TFCG considers whether or not the applicant has sufficiently
demonstrated need for a new facility and that there are
no other existing structures already in place in the community
which could reasonably accommodate the applicant’s antennas.
Examples of existing structures which may be able to support
telecommunications antennas include power company transmission
line towers, existing tall buildings, church steeples,
water tanks, existing lattice towers, monopoles, and in
some cases, public utility poles. Selection of locations
for siting telecommunications antenna facilities are generally
the result of the carrier’s own market analysis, the area
desired to be covered, the terrain of the area to be served,
the elevation of the antennas, the strength of the antenna
signals, and in some cases, the capacity of existing facilities
to provide continued coverage in a given area. In some
cases antenna facilities can be made to blend is with
the surrounding environment by “disguising” them as, for
example, flagpoles, ball field lights, or even artificial
Q: To what extent does federal
law limit local regulation of placement of telecommunications
A: Below is an excerpt
from the Telecom Act of 1996 (§704(a) National Wireless
Telecommunications Siting Policy) which states the extent
to which local authorities are prevented from regulating
(47 U.S.C. 332(c)) is amended by adding at the end the
following new paragraph:
OF LOCAL ZONING AUTHORITY-
AUTHORITY- Except as provided in this paragraph, nothing
in this Act shall limit or affect the authority of a State
or local government or instrumentality thereof over decisions
regarding the placement, construction, and modification
of personal wireless service facilities.
(i) The regulation of the
placement, construction, and modification of personal
wireless service facilities by any State or local government
or instrumentality thereof--
(I) shall not unreasonably
discriminate among providers of functionally equivalent
(II) shall not prohibit or
have the effect of prohibiting the provision of personal
(ii) A State or local government
or instrumentality thereof shall act on any request for
authorization to place, construct, or modify personal
wireless service facilities within a reasonable period
of time after the request is duly filed with such government
or instrumentality, taking into account the nature and
scope of such request.
decision by a State or local government or instrumentality
thereof to deny a request to place, construct, or modify
personal wireless service facilities shall be in writing
and supported by substantial evidence contained in a written
State or local government or instrumentality thereof may
regulate the placement, construction, and modification
of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of
the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions
to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commission's
regulations concerning such emissions.
(v) Any person
adversely affected by any final action or failure to act
by a State or local government or any instrumentality
thereof that is inconsistent with this subparagraph may,
within 30 days after such action or failure to act, commence
an action in any court of competent jurisdiction. The
court shall hear and decide such action on an expedited
basis. Any person adversely affected by an act or failure
to act by a State or local government or any instrumentality
thereof that is inconsistent with clause (iv) may petition
the Commission for relief.
For purposes of this paragraph--
(i) the term
`personal wireless services' means commercial mobile services,
unlicensed wireless services, and common carrier wireless
exchange access services;
term `unlicensed wireless service' means the offering
of telecommunications services using duly authorized devices
which do not require individual licenses, but does not
mean the provision of direct-to-home satellite services
(as defined in section 303(v)).'.
(ii) the term `personal wireless
service facilities' means facilities for the provision
of personal wireless services; and
(iii) the term `unlicensed
wireless service' means the offering of telecommunications
services using duly authorized devices which do not require
individual licenses, but does not mean the provision of
direct-to-home satellite services (as defined in section
can the public file comments on proposed antenna facilities?
A: The TFCG is not
the official body to receive public testimony regarding
placement of telecommunications facilities in the County.
If not otherwise permitted by County zoning regulations,
a new telecommunications facility either goes through
the Special Exception process or the Mandatory Referral
process. The Special Exception process falls under the
jurisdiction of the Montgomery County Board of Appeals,
where each application is scheduled on the agenda for
the Board to review. Special Exceptions require a formal,
publicized, public hearing which is the proper forum for
public input about the proposed facility. Siting of telecommunications
facilities which are subject to the Mandatory Referral
process are scheduled for review by the Maryland National
Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) at one of its regularly
scheduled sessions. The Mandatory Referral sessions are
not advertised but are open to the public and interested
parties are permitted to provide testimony.
To obtain schedules and agendas
for the Board of Appeals, please contact the Montgomery
County Board of Appeals office at 240-777-6600. For sessions
at the M-NCPPC, you may obtain meeting and agenda information
on their website www.mncppc.org.
Who can I call for answers to questions not answered here?
questions about the TFCG or current issues being discussed
at TFCG meetings, please call Mitsuko R. Herrera at 240-777-2928.
questions regarding technical aspects of applications
pending before the TFCG, please call the Tower Coordinator,
Bob Hunnicutt, with Columbia Telecommunications at 301-933-1488.
questions regarding pending applications before the Maryland
National Park and Planning Commission, please call Carllon Glbert at 301-495-4576.
zoning cases regarding telecommunications facilities
pending before the Board of Appeals, contact the Board
of Appeals Office at 240-777-6600.
For further information:
You may want to go the Federal Communications Commission’s
and review the information in the Wireless Bureau’s ‘FACT
SHEET” documents for information about wireless facilities.
You may also go to the pages devoted to the FCC’s Local
and State Government Advisory Committee, of which Montgomery
County Councilmember Marilyn Praisner is a member, to
review the handbook they prepared discussing radio frequency
emissions, or to easily link to the FCC’s Consumer Information
Bureau which also has information on this subject.