Planning board reviews tower recommendations

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 21, 2000

Telecommunication towers were the topic of discussion yet again at a meeting of the Natchez Metropolitan Planning Commission Thursday.

The planning commission discussed possible changes to the city’s existing ordinance which regulates the towers, but deferred acting on any amendments until January.

The ordinance, as well as the towers themselves, have been a subject of debate over the last several months with much of the discussion centered around a proposed tower on Jeff Davis Boulevard.

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On Tuesday, the Natchez Board of Aldermen upheld a recent decision by the planning commission approving the site plan for the 200-foot tower on Jeff Davis Boulevard.

Gretchen Kuechler, assistant city planner, presented the commission with a list of recommendations compiled by the city’s planning staff.

Staff recommendations include revising the fall zone requirements, requiring a performance bond, expanding the notification boundary and removing neighborhood business districts from the list of permittable districts.

Under the existing ordinance, towers must be two feet away from a residential property for every one foot in height up to a maximum of 200 feet.

After researching the tower ordinances of several other cities, Kuechler said the planning staff recommends &uot;any new tower must be set back from all lot lines distances equal to 25 percent of the tower height,&uot; which includes commercial properties.

To protect the city and landowners from abandoned or obsolete towers, planning staff also recommends a performance bond of $50,000.

Kuechler said building officials suggested removal of a tower should be covered by the bond, and any additional cost can be assessed to the owner’s taxes. The existing ordinance requires notification of surrounding property owners within 160 feet of a proposed tower.

Kuechler recommended the distance be increased to 300 feet, although planning staff already notifies owners within a larger radius than is required.

Kuechler said the planning staff did not find a need for including specific language requiring radio frequency propagation studies for new applications, because they are already required in certain situations under the existing ordinance.

But, she did recommend further discussion regarding spacing requirements and the benefits or concerns of &uot;clustering&uot; towers within a certain area.

Commission members also offered suggestions for the planning staff to research prior to the January meeting.

&uot;We need to make sure we gather information independently of the (tower) manufacturers and companies,&uot; Woody Allen said. &uot;Instead of them coming and writing our ordinance, we can double check for ourselves.&uot;

Commissioner Karen Stubbs said she was concerned about allowing towers in general business districts, because many are located adjacent to residential areas.

Allen also asked the planning staff to investigate the number of antennas that can be mounted on towers of different heights.

The commission is considering increasing the maximum height allowed without a variance from 200 feet to 250 feet.

&uot;It’s my understanding by doing this, we can eliminate 50 percent of the towers that are needed,&uot; Allen said.

The planning commission next meets on Jan. 18, 2001.