Council OKs regulations for small cell wireless; honors contributors to ‘candy cane’ swing set

After spending several months discussing how to regulate small cell wireless facilities in the City of Mountlake Terrace, the city council Monday night agreed to amend two of the city’s telecommunications codes to accommodate the miniature cell phone receiving stations.

As we reported in our earlier story, the small cells — which provide the new, faster 5G technology for wireless customers — can be placed on light poles, traffic signals, building roofs, road signs, billboards, and more. So instead of beaming connectivity from a few large cell towers, 5G will utilize lots of small transmitters.

Small cells don’t require as much power as full-sized towers, and perform best when clustered together to create more of a mesh network than a point-to-point signal. This requires a lot of hardware and it all has to be attached somewhere.  

On Monday, special counsel W. Scott Snyder of Ogden Murphy Wallace went over the proposed amendments to the current city telecommunications codes, including what the city will need to do to meet new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirements for the installation of small cells.

The city had been working on state legislation to govern installation, but then the FCC weighed in. The FCC’s new rules are aimed removing this barrier to deployment of small cells and other 5G network equipment by strictly limiting the role of local governments in regulating these. They set tight timeframes for local governments to approve applications to install small cells to 60 days for installations added to existing structures and 90 days when a provider wants to erect a new pole. And they limit local ability to manage small-cell developments to “reasonable” aesthetic reviews, but again, leave the specifics of what constitutes reasonable unaddressed.

The ordinance amendments approved by the city council Monday ensure the city will comply with these new guidelines, requiring a 60-day review for wireless company applications (think Verizon or AT&T) to install small cells to existing structures and a 90-day review for new pole installation. The amendment also includes provisions for staff/administrative review of the franchise applications that can include concealment requirements for new poles and environmental review for those proposed in sensitive areas.

Both ordinances were unanimously approved following a public hearing, during which the only people testifying were wireless industry representatives — both of whom thanked the council for addressing the regulations.

The council also voted unanimously to approve the city’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee recommendation for allocating the city’s hotel-motel tax funds. Under state law, lodging taxes can be used for tourism marketing, marketing and operations of special events and festivals, and operations of tourism-related facilities owned or operated by nonprofits, municipalities or public facilities districts.

This year, the advisory committee recommended — and the council approved — the budgeted $25,000 amount of city hotel-motel tax funds be allocated as follows: $2,000 to the Cheeseburger Babies Foundation to be used toward the annual July 3 fireworks event; $4,000 to the Friends of the Arts for Arts of the Terrace; $2,925 for the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau Visitor Information Center Program; and $16,075 for Tour de Terrace.

Councilmember Rick Ryan noted that the Arts of the Terrace received $1,000 less than it requested, and said he hoped that council would address during its upcoming retreat ways that the city can provide stable funding for the arts. The goal, he said, is to ensure city arts organizations don’t have to rely solely on grant funding.

Both Councilmember Ryan, who serves on the Tour de Terrace Board, and Councilmember Seaun Richards, who founded the Cheeseburger Babies Foundation, recused themselves from voting on the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee request.

Finally, the council at its Monday meeting recognized all those who participated in the effort to provide a candy cane-themed swing set for Terrace Creek Park. Those receiving certificates of appreciation during the meeting included members of a local Girl Scout troop, an Eagle Scout candidate and Carstar Collision Clinic owner Bruce Lingle and his wife Beth.

As we reported in our earlier story, Girl Scout Troop 41246 – including Stephanie Kha, Neeva Shrestha, Holland Hornaday, and Jessie Tong with Troop Leader Heather Margo – decided for their Silver Award to paint the new swing set scheduled to be installed at Terrace Creek Park. Committed to retaining the park’s candy cane theme, the troop taped and masked the swing set, and Edmonds-based Carstar Collision donated a professional red-and-white striped paint job for the set.

At about the same time, Eagle Scout candidate Jared Popelka wanted to do a park project for his Eagle candidacy. He submitted a project to assist the city to install the new swing set. The old swing set was removed and city staff worked with Jared to install the newly painted equipment, and approximately 25 volunteer Boy Scouts and parents helped to complete the installation.

— Story and photos by Teresa Wippel

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