While visitors are trying to decide what ski wax to use this winter, Aspen city staffers are working on aesthetic regulations for small cells on the city’s street lamps, including width, color, camouflaging, and height, reported the Aspen Daily News. Carriers have begun installing nodes on existing street lights, most between 11 and 19 feet. However, the city is proposing new small cell design guidelines allowing replacement towers up to 25 feet tall, still shorter than the 50-foot limit preferred by the wireless industry.
At the center of debate is whether to add small cells to existing, smaller, and shorter poles, or allow the construction of larger poles so carriers can add more infrastructure to each streetlight. Under these guidelines, if a company applies for an application and it’s approved, it would remove the current streetlight and replace it with a larger pole, plus cover the expense, according to the Daily News.
The city is also proposing a requirement that all wires and antennas associated with the small cells be enclosed within the pole. According to Paul Shultz, the city’s director of information technology, current streetlights along Aspen sidewalks don’t have “room to support the amount of infrastructure. It’s just not possible to reuse these poles.”
Aspen’s design team consulted with AT&T, Verizon, and a neutral host regarding the design guidelines. Ben Anderson, a planner with the community development department, told the city council, “This is one of the topics that the wireless industry is perhaps going to be pushing back most on. Their argument is, the taller the tower, the fewer of these facilities we are going to eventually need.”
The proposed design guidelines would limit a carrier from having two poles closer than 600 feet together. The facilities would be painted a greenish-gray to match existing streetlamps, and use a downward-facing LED light that would color-match existing lighting downtown. Although the city can’t restrict small cells in entire city zones, they’re attempting to ban poles in certain downtown areas; these include pedestrian malls, the foreground of protected mountain views, or adjacent to open spaces and the street-facing façade of Aspen’s designated, iconic properties.
Aspen is also proposing required testing of RF exposure. Prior to installation, companies would have to provide the predicted Nonionizing Electromagnetic Radiation measurements of each cell, as well as provide annual test results of the measurements, reported the Daily News.
As a next step, the design team will present updates before the end of February. Final approval on the matter is set for mid-March.