Forsyth County is taking a look at issues surrounding new, smaller cell phone towers.
At a recent work session, Forsyth County Commissioners heard an update from County Attorney Ken Jarrard on “small cell” technology, towers that are smaller than traditional cell phone towers and can be made to look like street lights or powerlines.
“You’re probably more familiar with the massive, 200-foot telecommunications towers,” said Jarrard. “The small cell technology is apparently the wave of the future with respect to the new backbone for all the data connectivity people are demanding.”
No action was taken at the meeting, and Jarrard will bring back a policy update at a future meeting, which will likely involve permitting.
Jarrard said since the towers were smaller, they were allowed on county-owned right of way since they are a utility. The company Mobilitie has already placed some towers in south Forsyth.
“These small cell sites, particularly with respect to Mobilitie, locate on city and county right-of-way,” he said. “They look a whole lot like a light pole and they may look like sort of benign utility pole and do blend in a little better.”
Mobilitie has submitted applications for 24 towers and four have already been built. The ones already built are 75 feet and the others are 120 feet.
Jarrard said a hold has been placed on the larger towers until steps to amend county rules for the towers.
Placing the towers in the county is also cheaper for the company than in cities.
“If you are a city, due compensation means 3 percent of all of the revenues generated by uses in the municipality,” he said. “However, due compensation within the context of counties is limited to simply an administrative cost of recruitment fee, which may not exceed the county’s direct actual costs.”
Jarrard said he asked officials with the state about the law and was told it was not going to change.