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Cell Tower Regulations

Columbus-Phenix City Metropolitan Planning Organization

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 (TCA) prohibits local governments from writing ordinances that impose unreasonable barriers to the citing of cell towers/antennas and the provision of wireless service. Specifically, local governments cannot write regulations that:

  • Discriminate among providers of functionally equivalent services.
  • Prohibit, or effectively prohibit, wireless service provision.
  • Regulate personal wireless service facilities (including cell towers and antennas) based on environmental effects of radio frequency emissions, assuming the facilities are in compliance with FCC regulations in this regard.

Furthermore, the TCA requires local governments to review applications for telecommunications facilities in a timely manner. In the event that such an application is denied, the local government must include a written explanation for the denial, supported by evidence.

Although local ordinances must be mindful of the TCA provisions, local governments do have the ability to regulate, to a certain extent, location and design elements of telecommunications towers and antennas. Many places have regulations designed to minimize the aesthetic impact these facilities have on their surroundings. Common provisions include setback and screening requirements, "stealth design" standards, and tighter restrictions for residential zones, historic districts or environmentally sensitive areas. Some such provisions may also address public safety concerns.

The Columbus Consolidate Government Wireless Communications Facility Ordinance can be found in theUDO under Section 3.2.72. Please note Table 3.2.10 for required Development Review for Towers.