MILTON, Ga. – Faced with no other option, the Milton City Council unanimously approved Nov. 21 an application for the use of public rights of way for telecommunication facilities.
The ruling allows for installation of a 78-foot tower by Mobilitie on the north side of Morris Road, just south of Webb Road and Deerfield Avenue.
State law prohibits a city from denying a telecommunications company from operating in the state right of way, City Attorney Ken Jarrard said.
The city had 60 days to either approve or deny the request, but Jarrard said if the city were to deny it, the state would approve it anyway on the 61st day.
This type of tower differs from the cell towers most residents are accustomed to seeing. The structure is tall and narrow in design. Submitted plans indicate a wooden pole measuring 78 feet above ground, almost twice as tall as the average wooden power pole.
A typical street light in the area measures 30 to 35 feet. Most communications structures like the one proposed are coupled onto existing cell phone towers. This will be the city’s first standalone.
While the design is narrow and generally less bulky near the top as compared to traditional towers, these cell towers are installed more prominently in the right of way instead of positioned farther back off the road. They are also often installed on property among trees.
The city still has some say in how the tower appears. Milton can work to ensure that all city permitting requirements are adhered to and that the installation meets all safety requirements and standards.
“They are a provider who is entitled to use the city’s right of way,” Jarrard said. “The next step will be they’ll have to give us a telecommunications ordinance where we can apply some of our rules and regulations of what they put in our right of way.”
This is the way of the future in terms of the types of technological applications the city will soon face, he said.
“This is not going to slow down,” Jarrard said. “We need to be good stewards. While they may be able to put these structures in our right of way, we have the ability to reasonably regulate it.”
City Manager Steven Krokoff said this is the way companies will bring internet connection speeds to the next power level, or 5G. If cities deny these applications, he said down the road the community will be lagging.
“This is how they will move the data,” he said. “It’s incumbent upon us as a municipality to continue to be ahead of trends and figure out what we need to do to have whatever control we can have.”