June 7, 2017

Montgomery County to Host a Public Meeting to Discuss Proposed Zoning Changes to Address Small Cell Antennas in Neighborhoods

Change is coming to wireless technology at a swift pace. On one hand, we all welcome the coming transformation that will allow us to stream information and videos at high speed in our homes and businesses, but on the other hand, many of us are questioning the need for the antennas and equipment that will deploy this technology in our residential neighborhoods.

Montgomery County is on the forefront of these challenges for two important reasons: 1) Montgomery has recently received an unprecedented number of applications to deploy these small cell antennas in residential neighborhoods around the County, and 2) the Federal government (Federal Communications Commission - FCC) is right now considering preempting local governments’ zoning authority over siting these antennas. It is this local zoning authority that allows local governments across the country to regulate how and where these antennas are placed in residential neighborhoods and commercial areas.

In May, County Executive Ike Leggett took a delegation of County technology experts, Councilmember Hans Riemer, Congressman Jamie Raskin and representatives from the offices of Senators Ben Cardin, Senator Chris Van Hollen, Congressman John Sarbanes and Congressman John Delaney to the FCC to meet with Chairman Ajit Pai and his staff. Leggett strongly advocate against federal preemption of local zoning authority, and asked Pai to help allay the public’s health concerns about these small cell antennas by updating the federal RF emissions standards, which have not been revised since 1996.

Leggett requested the County’s Department of Information Technology Services (DTS) to work with the County Attorney to develop zoning regulations to protect residential neighborhoods from a proliferation of small cell antennas while still allowing wireless providers to deploy their new technology in the County. Federal law is clear on this matter: local governments cannot put regulations in place that would prohibit providers from providing service.

The County will hold an information meeting for the public on these proposed zoning changes on June 14 at 7 p.m. in the Cafeteria at the Executive Office Building at 101 Monroe Street in Rockville.

View the County Executive’s letter to the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.