Model Ordinances

This model ordinance combines the best of several ordinances that Scenic America reviewed in the process of assembling our publication, Taming Wireless Telecommunications Towers.

This constitutes a bare-bones ordinance, rather than the sort of comprehensive policy document that should accompany every ordinance. Scenic America recommends that each community develop a thorough understanding of its communications needs and visual environment and develop a policy and ordinance to meet the former without compromising the latter.

The Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 places some restrictions on the ability of communities to regulate wireless telecommunications facilities. Fortunately, the 1996 Act retains local control over many aspects of wireless facilities. [Section 601(c) of the Act specifically prevents the Act from any implied preemption over state or local law unless expressly so provided for in the Act.] The n et effect of the Act is that communities:

  • cannot enact a blanket ban on all wireless facilities, but can place reasonable restrictions on facilities in certain zones or areas;
  • cannot unreasonably discriminate among equivalent service providers;
  • cannot regulate placement, construction and modification of wireless facilities on the basis of environmental effects, provided the facility complies with FCC emissions regulations. [Some courts have interpreted the Act to also preempt local regulation of health effects from wireless facilities, but the Act does not specifically preempt health issues, which are traditionally left to local control];
  • can exert reasonable control over tower aesthetics, including height restrictions, co- location, setbacks, and other design issues, and safety.

Federal telecommunications law also specifically preserves the rights of states to & protect the public safety and welfare, ensure the continued quality of telecommunications services, and safeguard the rights of consumers.& 47 U.S.C. § 253(b).

Users should also note that at least two states, Connecticut and Kentucky, decide tower siting issues at the state level. Accordingly, municipalities in those states must tailor their ordinances as needed.

Download the Model Ordinance