Chapter 23.57 Communications Regulations

This chapter is not about talk radio or how to talk to your boss about a raise. It’s really about your cell phone. Everyone has one now, which means we need more hardware to improve reception. Over the last ten years, since I worked at the City, this seems to have ceased to be the big issue that it was. We seem to have grown used to the idea of antennae on our rooftops and elsewhere. That wasn’t always the case.

We’ve probably all seen them, the white boards in front of an apartment building near you announcing a “minor communications utility.” These boards presage the sprouting of some kind of antenna or array of antennae on top of that apartment building.

This chapter provides regulations and development standards for major and minor communication utilities and accessory communication devices. The regulations and development standards contained in this chapter are imposed to minimize the health, safety and visual impact of telecommunication utilities on nearby areas. Development of communication utilities and accessory devices may also be subject to other regulations, including but not limited to Chapter 25.05, SEPA Policies and Procedures and Chapter 25.10, Radiofrequency Radiation, in addition to the Land Use Code.

This is nicely written and, like the opening for the signs chapter, straight to the point.

I don’t have a heck of a lot to say about this chapter that I haven’t already said. I would suggest, keeping the opening paragraph, adding something about the director taking care of the details, and then deleting the rest.

There was a time when it appeared that there was a nascent neighborhood movement around fighting “cell towers.” When I worked at the Department of Neighborhoods the towers became a kind of rallying point for the NIMBY crowd. Letters were written, threats were made, lawyers were hired, and it appeared that we might have a serious problem. What would we do if fears of cancer clusters and environmental justice caught on and found their spark in a massive effort to stop anymore cell towers? Would we have to go back to land lines?

It probably wasn’t ever that bad, but I can remember that telecommunications folks considered offering money and other mitigation to neighbors worried that their dog would grow another tail or their strawberries would would look like something from Land of the Lost because of exposure to radiation. Also there were advances in technology to reduce the visual impact of the hardware.

It seems as though these days that the MUP boards go up and there is very little controversy. Maybe there is something out there that has fundamentally changed with the process or maybe people have just moved on. Maybe there aren’t as many permits being requested. Maybe people got used to the idea that in order to download a season of Sopranos on to a smart phone we needed more antennae.

Whatever the reason, it appears as though we’re done fighting about the location of “minor communications” utilities. That’s probably a good thing. Now how do we make other kinds of permitting issues for new development as routine as these have seem to become?


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One Response to Chapter 23.57 Communications Regulations

  1. Pingback: Chapter 23.58A Incentive Provisions | Seattle's Land Use Code

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