Mt. Lebanon Municipal Building

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Mt. Lebanon Municipal Building

The evolving landscape of wireless communications, including the expansion of 5G technology, is the subject of a proposed amendment to the zoning chapter of the Mt. Lebanon Code.

At its regular meeting Nov. 24, Mt. Lebanon Commission will host a public hearing on an ordinance that, among other provisions, establishes certain standards relating to small wireless communications facilities.

As the latest generation of technology for broadband cellular networks, 5G relies on a dense distribution of relatively compact antennas and support structures, “as opposed to the larger traditional tower-based facilities that you might notice next to the highway,” according to attorney Joel Winston.

Representing Cohen Law Group of Sharpsburg, which represents local governments in wireless communications and related issues, Winston provided an overview of the proposed ordinance to commissioners during their Nov. 10 discussion session.

At the root of the update is the Federal Communication Commission’s pursuit of a comprehensive strategy to facilitate 5G deployment, including the requisite wireless communications facilities, throughout the nation.

“In 2018, the FCC issued orders that relate to the installation and management of these facilities, including the manner in which local governments can regulate them,” Winston said.

Power to regulate, though, is limited, as the federal agency proscribes the exercise of zoning authority that would cause an effective prohibition of wireless service if the rules “materially inhibit” a wireless provider’s ability to offer service or deploy new technologies, according to Winston.

“Also, the exercise of the zoning authority must not discriminate between functionally equivalent providers,” he said. “But the laws provide a little hook that if municipalities step up and act, they can take into their own hands and define certain things, including the design guidelines, the aesthetic look of these certain facilities and other certain details about their placement and their location.”

Mt. Lebanon’s proposed ordinance precludes certain areas and buildings within the municipality from the placement of wireless communications facilities.

“No small WCF may be located on or within 100 feet of any historic district, property, building or structure that is listed on either the National or Pennsylvania Registers of Historic Places, or eligible to be so listed, or is included in the official historic structures list maintained by the municipality,” the proposed ordinance states.

The National Register of Historic Places Program lists the Mt. Lebanon Historic District as “roughly bounded by Gilkeson Road, Washington Road, Woodland Drive, Vermont Avenue, Mt. Lebanon Boulevard, the Pittsburgh Light Rail tracks, Castle Shannon Boulevard, Scott Road, Twin Hills Drive, the Mt. Lebanon municipal boundary, Pine Tree Road, Moffett Street and Cedar Boulevard.”

Also in the update is a stipulation that small wireless communications facilities in districts that require utilities to be underground must be collocated on existing or replacement support structures.

For facilities that are placed within municipal rights of way, the proposal is for owners to pay an annual fee to compensate for costs of reviewing, inspecting, permitting, supervising and management activities by the municipality.

Cohen Law Group also worked on drafting the Wireless Communications Facilities section in the Zoning chapter of the municipal code, as adopted in 2018.

To view the proposed ordinance amending the Mt. Lebanon Code, visit www.mtlebanon.org/DocumentCenter/View/17884/Ordinance-Bill-No-9-20-wireless-facilities.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!