By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer • 

Planners discuss changing codes for cell towers

The McMinnville Planning Commission will discuss regulations to take cell towers down a peg or two at a work session set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

City code requires cellphone towers and other types of telecommunication antennas be obscured from view in residential zones and the historic downtown core. But there are no guidelines for how this should be accomplished, and Planning Director Heather Richards said needs to be addressed.

She is also seeking review of regulations governing co-location centers, where cell tower equipment, space and bandwidth are offered for rent.

An applicant for a new tower is supposed to demonstrate there is no existing co-location facility that would serve its needs. However, she said current code does not establish specific parameters.

The city’s planning staff has been examining codes in other communities in preparation for Thursday’s discussion.

“In that review,” Richards said, “we found that, while many cities had not updated their wireless requirements for seven or more years, the city of Wilsonville’s code was updated in 2016 and addressed many of the areas that have been a concern to the McMinnville Planning Department.” She said the Wilsonville review proved a source of guidance in amendments being proposed in McMinnville.

The amendments would establish new guidelines on height, visual impact, screening, landscaping, color, signage, lighting, setbacks, noise, the review process and city approval criteria.

Richards also wants commissioners to consider limiting the size and height of storage structures serving cell towers. To exceed those limits would require use of an underground vault.

Revising the code, she said, “would be beneficial to the community in terms of land use and aesthetics, while allowing opportunities for continued local growth in the wireless communications industry.”

Planning commissioners are being asked to provide guidance to the planning staff in drafting the final amendments, which would then be open to citizens’ comments at a public hearing Thursday, Aug. 17.

Commissioners will also consider amendments to the city’s Historic Preservation Ordinance, one of which calls for creation of a historic preservation chapter in the city’s zoning ordinance.

Richards said the majority of the amendments are designed to ensure consistency with updated Oregon law regarding the protection of historic resources, including local sites and structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The amendments focus on the owner consent process, application review criteria and standards and guidelines for alterations.

Finally, commissioners are scheduled to conduct a public hearing on a conditional-use permit sought by Parkland Village to expand its 50-unit assisted living facility at 3121 N.E. Cumulus Ave. to 74 units.

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