Council Enacts Zoning Changes to Aid in Deployment of 5G Wireless Service by Using Existing Countywide Infrastructure

ZTA 22-01 will foster expanded 5G wireless service in Montgomery County and help narrow the digital divide. To encourage colocation and reduce proliferation of antennas across the County, ZTA 22-01 reduces the setback requirements for antennas on existing structures to correspond with the current 30-foot setback requirement for antennas on new structures. By changing the setback from 60 to 30 feet, these antennas are treated similarly to telecommunications towers and can provide better service to residents.

“These zoning changes continue the Council’s work over more than six years to ensure a smooth, efficient, and thoughtful deployment of the infrastructure required to support advancements in wireless technology,” said Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee Chair Riemer. “While a small, but vocal group of critics has opposed these measures and sought delay at every turn, I ask: if we don’t embrace these changes, how are we supposed to compete for job growth and quality of life with our regional counterparts who have already moved forward on common sense wireless zoning reforms? Montgomery County should embrace the future. Companies and our residents do not want to be in a technology backwater. We all benefit from wireless connectivity, and these zoning reforms will ensure continued progress.”

“During the pandemic, we learned how critical it is to be connected by technology to work, school and so much more,” said Council President Gabe Albornoz. “Our passage of ZTA 19-97 last year embraced 5G technology to move Montgomery County into the future. ZTA 22-01 is another important tool that could help bridge the current digital divide. We must ensure all residents have equitable access to technology. We cannot be left behind as the rest of the country and the world is using this advanced technology.”

This effort works in tandem with ZTA 19-07, Telecommunications Towers – Limited Use, which the Council adopted in July 2021. ZTA 19-07 revised the standards for telecommunications towers that are part of the 5G telecommunications rollout in Montgomery County to provide internet service for residents at faster speeds, enhanced reliability and greater capacity.

Under ZTA 22-01, the setback for a telecommunications tower in the County’s agricultural, rural residential and residential zones was reduced to 30 feet, which will provide better coverage and permit antenna to be placed on existing structures instead of having to create new ones. ZTA 22-01 will require maintenance of the antennas and encourages tree loss minimization as well as preferential placement.

The Council staff report on ZTA 22-01 can be found here.

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