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USA City Ordinances to Limit and Control Wireless Facilities Small Cells in Rights of Ways



From coast to coast local governments are taking action to protect their communities from the unfettered deployment of 4G and 5G “small cell” wireless facilities. Several cities are passing ordinances that strictly limit the buildout. Many policymakers ask “What are other cities doing?”

This page holds a compilation of what cities are doing to protect their communities. For example Los Altos California passed an ordinance that does the following:

  • installation of small cells on public utility easements in residential neighborhoods is prohibited
  • 500 foot setbacks for small cells  for multi-family residences in commercial districts
  • 500 ft separation from schools
  • 1500 ft separation between nodes


Local ordinances note various purposes such as preserving visual character, protecting environmental resources, and protecting residents against adverse health effects. They take a variety of approaches, such as prohibiting small cells in certain areas, creating application and recertification fees  and imposing aesthetic and administrative requirements. Some combine several of these approaches. 

Examples of areas addressed in these ordinances: 


  • Prohibiting small cell installations in residential areas, certain streets, ets. 
  • Requiring installations to be a certain distance away from residences, schools, hospitals, and/or other installations
  • Specifying that installations must be relocated if/when they would interfere with a public project


  • Aesthetic, design, and noise requirements such as colocation, camouflage, height and light limits, etc.


  • Requiring that residents who will be within a certain distance of an installation be notified
  • Instating automatic time limits for permits
  • Requiring annual recertification fees
  • Requiring permittees to defend and indemnify the city from any liabilities arising from permits and the installation, operation and maintenance of small cell installations
  • Reserving the right to hire independent consultants at the applicant’s expense


  • Appointing a committee to study the viability of a fiber optic network


5G Small Cell Tower Resolution (Hallandale Beach Florida and Greendale Wisconsin)  



Commissions to Investigate 5G 

New Hampshire passed a bill that established a commission to study the environmental and health effects of 5G technology.  

Oregon has passed SB 283  requiring the Oregon Health Authority to review peer-reviewed, independently funded scientific studies of the health effects of exposure to microwave radiation, particularly exposure that results from the use of wireless network technologies in schools. 

Louisiana  Bill HR 145 requests the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Healthstudy the effects of evolving 5G technology.  

US City Actions Blog Roll 

10/22/2019 Carmel City Council (Indiana) Resolution:The Carmel City Council approved a resolution Monday asking state lawmakers, the Federal Communications Commission and Congress to limit 5G technology deployment in Indiana until the health effects are fully understood.” According to news accounts 

  • “Carmel’s resolution urges the state Legislature, Congress and the FCC to “take a second look” at the evidence regarding health impacts and limit deployment in the meantime, Green said.
  • “While the council supports the innovation and use of new technology that will provide a better quality of life to Indiana residents and guests, it is very concerned about rushing to implement 5G technology before its effects on humans are fully understood, and urges prudent care be taken to ensure that no one is harmed therefrom,” it reads.
  • The resolution as originally drafted called for the state Legislature to “immediately suspend the deployment and use of 5G technology until scientific evidence conclusively establishes that this technology poses no health risks to humans.” That language was softened to “limit” before being presented to the council.

Hallandale Beach Florida

Greendale,  Wisconsin Resolution 



Note: These were compiled from EHT research of various sources and a special thank you to Physicians for Safe Technology, My Streets My Choice, Scientists for Wired Technologyand Last Tree Laws for their extensive resources utilized on this page. Please be sure to go to these pages for more information.  

In addition, Americans For Responsible Technology has created a Sample Small Cell Ordinance that cities can use as a starting point which incorporates several- although not all- of these issues. Please download their model ordinance and utilize their extensive resources at this link. 


Encinitas Urgency Ordinance 

Los Altos California

  • installation of small cells on public utility easements in residential neighborhoods is prohibited
  • 500 foot setbacks for small cells  for multi-family residences in commercial districts
  • 500 ft separation from schools
  • 1500 ft separation between nodes
  • Los Altos Urgency Ordinance: 
  • Los Altos Citing Guidelines:

Marin County California

Draft as of June 21, 2019  Marin drafts preferences for 5G rollout, Point Reyes Light

  • “Marin’s draft rules select industrial, commercial or agricultural sites, or sites near public facilities, as preferred locations for the antennas; residential and mixed-use sites and areas within 1,500 feet of schools and daycare centers are the least-preferred locations.The draft favors placing antennas on existing street poles or traffic lights, versus new poles or small cell facilities. It limits antennas to one per pole and stipulates they must be at least 1,000 feet apart. It also includes aesthetic requirements that aim to blend equipment, and prohibits equipment on historic buildings.”

San Diego County, California

Draft ordinance (5-31-2019) for small cell antenna sites in San Diego County has the following requirement:

“SCWs shall not be located within 1,000 feet of schools, child care centers, hospitals, or churches. Distance, without regard to intervening structures, shall be a straight line measured from the closest property lines.”

San Diego County Ordinance


Petaluma, California 

Ordinance of the City Council of Petaluma  

  • Protect environmental resources; protect residents against adverse health effects
  • Protect visual character; don’t create visual blight
  • Protect environmental resources; protect residents against adverse health effects
  • Commercial or industrial zones
  • Antennas must connect to an already existing utility pole that can support its weight.
  • Servicing wires must be installed within the width of the existing utility.
  • All ground-mounted equipment not to be installed inside the pole must be undergrounded, flush to the ground, within three (3) feet of the utility pole.
  • Dedicated power source to be installed and metered separately.
  • 1,500 feet minimum between each Small Cell facility.
  • No Small Cell shall be within 500 feet of any residence.
  • An encroachment permit must be obtained for any work in the right-of-way.
  • Petaluma, California: Ordinance of the City Council of PetalumaPDF


Fairfax, California

Urgency Ordinance to Establish New Regulations for Wireless Telecommunications Facilities; Ad hoc committee to study viability of fiber network

Ordinance No.819 An Urgency Ordinance Enacting Title 20 (“Telecommunications”) of the Fairfax Municipal Code to Establish New Regulations for Wireless Telecommunication Facilities [small cell devices a.k.a. 5G]



Warren Connecticut 

This policy defines adequate coverage and adequate capacity. It details that it was designed “to locate towers and/or antennas in a manner which protects property values, as well as the general safety, health, welfare and quality of life of the citizens of Warren and all those who visit this community, minimize the total number and height of towers throughout Warren, and provide standards and requirements for the regulation, placement, design, appearance, construction, monitoring, modification and removal of telecommunications facilities and towers.” 

  • “Coverage is considered to be “adequate” within that area surrounding a Base Station where the predicted or measured median field strength of the transmitted signal is such that the majority of the time, transceivers properly installed and operated will be able to communicate with the base station.  In the case of cellular communications in a rural environment like Warren, this would be a signal strength of at least -90 dBm for at least 75% of the coverage area. It is acceptable for there to be holes within the area of Adequate Coverage where the signal is less than -90 dBm, as long as the signal regains its strength to greater than -90 dBm further away from the Base Station.” 
  • “Capacity is considered to be “adequate” if the Grade of Service (GOS) is p.05 or better for median traffic levels offered during the typical busy hour, as assessed by direct measurement of the Personal Wireless Service Facility in question.” 



Burlington, Massachusetts

Town of Burlington Policy Applications for Small Cell Wireless Installations, October 22, 2018

  • Small Cell Committee drafted a policy with annual recertification fees. Verizon withdrew its application, concerned by the precedent it would set and questioning its legality. 
  • Verizon attorney Mr. Klasnick  stated “My client respectfully requests to withdraw the petition rather than have a fee,” he said.(BCATTV)

The Town of Burlington Policy / Application for Small Cell Wireless Installations approved by the Burlington Board of Selectmen on October 22, 2018 PDF.  

According to BCATTV Verizon Drops Small Cell Wireless Booster Application in Face of Fees:

“This week Selectman Jim Tigges, the board’s representative on the Small Cells Committee, said the group had come up with a new policy for small cell applications. The policy contains a number of provisions while filing an application, including setting installation fees, listing the town department that must receive a copy for review and setting up the timeline for approval.

The Verizon application, however, would not be subject to the policy because it was submitted before its adoption. However, Tigges and the committee did have a number of conditions for the project it recommended to the board. They included:

– No apparatus on double poles

– An agreement to annual recertification

– Equipment shall be located on top of the poles, colored similarly to the polse so as to blend in.

– Equipment shall not interfere with other equipment on the pole, nor obstruct or interfere with access to or operation of street lights or traffic controls devices on the pole.

– Poles must meet ADA standards.”

-NEWS: Verizon Drops Small Cell Wireless Booster Application in Face of Fees, October 23, 2018


Palos Vardes, California

According to citizens of the City, after citizen uproar, Crown Castle began  complying with municipal aesthetic requirements and moving proposed locations out of neighborhoods and away from homes.  The ordinance has four key components, if these are met the site will almost certainly be approved:

  • Minimal antenna size with screening
  • All accessory equipment underground (everything except the antenna)
  • Combining sites with existing vertical infrastructure (streetlights, traffic signals, etc.)
  • Strict location restrictions, no sites on local, residential streets without an exception granted

    If they don’t comply with these, then the applicant must demonstrate the site is required to fill a significant gap and there is no less intrusive alternative to receive an exception.  This is not simply checking a box (i.e. the applicant just claiming these conditions exist) but has to be demonstrated to the City planning commission via engineering analysis.



Palo Alto California

City Council voted unanimously to approve a Resolution and amended Wireless Ordinance that City Staff had proposed. Council also voted unanimously in favor of a motion to direct City Staff “to come back as soon as possible but [in] no more than [one year], with an updated Ordinance/Resolution that considers”  (and e summarizing):

  1. Disfavoring the placement of cell towers in, for example, residential zones and near schools;
  2. Minimum setbacks for cell towers from homes and schools, and minimum distances between cell towers;
  3. Creating a list of city-owned buildings that would be appropriate sites for macro cell towers (i.e., as an alternative to small cell node cell towers next to people’s homes);

Council also voted to direct City Staff to return to Council with a recommendation for “best practices” with respect to inspecting antennas.

“Seeking to strike a balance between federal requirements and resident concerns, Palo Alto approved on Monday night new rules for reviewing the flurry of applications that the city has been receiving from telecommunication companies seeking to install antennas on local streetlights and utility poles.

By a 6-0 vote, with Councilman Greg Tanaka absent, the council adopted a set of “objective standards” for wireless communication facilities, including a menu of preferred design alternatives for radio equipment and antennas. And in a nod to the dozens of residents who have raised alarms about the proliferation of cellular facilities on their blocks, the council launched a new effort to further restrict where such technology can be installed and to explore “minimum distance” requirements for wireless equipment in relation to local schools and homes.”

Palo Alto looks to distance cell antennas from homes, schools


Mill Valley, California 

Urgency Ordinance No 18, September 6, 2018


San Anselmo, California 

Council Policy

  • People within 300 feet of proposed antenna will be notified 
  • Town is entitled to employ independent consultant at applicant’s expense to evaluate exceptions
  • San Anselmo, California PDF


Ross Valley, California

Wireless Telecommunications Facilities

  • Modeled after Mill Valley’s
  • Adopted regulations prohibit facilities in residential and downtown zoning district. 
  • Facilities proposed in the public right-of-way subject to separate design criteria. 
  • Limits height and width of facilities to a minimum necessary for property function. 
  • Maximum height of 24 feet above the height of the existing utility pole and 7 feet above a street light standard. 
  • Requires equipment to be placed underground.

Ross Valley, California: Wireless Telecommunications Facilities PDF


Danville, California

Proposed Ordinance No. 2018-07: Wireless Communication Facilities

  • Aesthetic requirements (design guidelines may be developed and amended from time to time to clarify aesthetic and public safety goals and standards)
  • Utilities must be underground to extent feasible. “Meters, panels, disconnect switches and other associated improvements must be placed in inconspicuous locations to the extent possible”.
  • Permits valid for initial period of 10 years max
  • “Where feasible, the location of wireless communication facilities shall be encouraged to be located on publicly owned or controlled property or right-of-way.”
  • Would allow small cells in residential districts:

–“All facilities shall be substantially screened from the view of surrounding properties and the public view or collocated with existing facilities or structures so as not to create substantial additional visual, noise, or thermal impacts. “

–Property owners within 300 ft of proposed site must be notified

Danville, California: Ordinance No. 2018-07 Wireless Communications Facilities PDF


Little Silver New Jersey

  • Carriers should provide notice to property owners within five hundred (500’) feet of the proposed Telecommunications Facility.
  • The applicant must demonstrate to the reasonable satisfaction of the Borough that no existing personal wireless Telecommunication Service Facility within a reasonable distance can accommodate needs.
  • Indemnification clause: “Each license grantee shall indemnify and hold the Borough and its officers, employees, agents and representatives harmless from and against any and all damages, losses and expenses, including reasonable attorney’s fees and costs of suit or defense, arising out of, resulting from or alleged to arise out of or result from the negligent, careless or wrongful acts, omissions, failures to act or misconduct of the grantee or its affiliates, officers, employees, agents, contractors or subcontractors in the construction, operation, maintenance, repair or removal of its Telecommunications Facilities, and in providing or offering Telecommunications Services over the facilities, whether such acts or omissions are authorized, allowed or prohibited by this Chapter or by a grant agreement made or entered into pursuant to this Chapter.”


Walnut City, California

  • “Telecommunication towers and antennas shall not be located within 1,500 feet of any school (nursery, elementary, junior high, and high school), trail, park or outdoor recreation area, sporting venues, and residential zones.”
  • Screenshot of Ordinance from Walnut Website,
  • To see the code online  go to, Click on “Title 6: Planning and Zoning” Click on “Chapter 6.88 ANTENNAS AND COMMUNICATION FACILITIES”, Click on “6.88.060 Design standards, See Item “O.


Sebastopol, California

City Council Agenda Item Report and Urgency Ordinance  (Recommended) 

  • Purpose: Institute a moratorium on applications for small cells in the public right-of-way until adoption of a permanent ordinance 

Previous regulations on telecommunications facilities (according to the recommended urgency ordinance, these did not anticipate 5G and do not address installation of telecommunications facilities in the right-of-way): 

  • Purpose: Protect visual character, inhabitants, environmental resources

Cannot be located in any required yard setback area

  • Facilities within 400 feet of residential areas, schools, churches, hospitals etc must comply with NIER standards
  • Minor facilities must be 75 feet away from a “residential dwelling unit” except 1 single family residence on the property where it is located

Sebastopol, California: City Council Agenda Item Report and Urgency Ordinance Establishing a Moratorium on Small Cells in the Public Right of Way

Other Links


Pittsfield, Massachusetts

 Proposed Section: Wireless Communications Facilities

  • Telecom company must prove prefered site/existing structure does not work
  • Above ground aesthetic requirements
  • Sound and light restrictions with emphasis on industry proving compliance

Pittsfield, Massachusetts: Proposed Section: Wireless Communications Facilities PDF


Hempstead, New York: Wireless Communications Facilities


Mason, Ohio

Zoning Ordinance – Wireless Communications Systems

  • No small cells in residential areas or within 100 feet of property used for residential use
  • Small cells must be 2000 feet apart (unless colocated)
  • Small cells are between 20-30 ft high (may be able to exceed 30 ft if colocated)
  • Every attempt shall be made to locate small cells on existing structures; if not available, within public right of way 
  • All related equipment should be underground or wholly contained so not visible
  • Each facility shall consist of no more than 1 antenna/user and capable of providing communication for at least 2 users

Mason, Ohio Zoning Ordinance PDF


Sonoma, California

Report and Urgency Ordinance

On Nov 5, 2018 Sonoma approved their 5G urgency ordinance.

“Based on the foregoing, the City Council finds and determines that the immediate preservation of the public health, safety and welfare requires that this Ordinance be enacted as an urgency ordinance pursuant to Government Code Section 36937(b), and take effect immediately upon adoption. Therefore, this Ordinance is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, safety and welfare and its urgency is hereby declared.”


San Rafael, California

City Council Report

Dec. 5, 2018 front page news story:


Dec. 18, 2018  front page story:


“I want the city and county government to clearly say no to the FCC,” said resident Arthur Saftlas. “No 5G installations of any kind in Marin, until it can be proven safe for us and the environment.”- San Rafael, Calif., Officials Work to Tighten 5G Regulation


Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Zoning Changes via Ordinance 9-2016

  • City Council rushed through zoning changes to declare many streets off limits to new poles (said they could be much taller than existing ones)
  • Public Utility Commission stripped Mobilitie and other distributed-antenna companies of utility status, meaning that they would not get any more “certificates of public convenience” in Pennsylvania.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania Ordinance No. 9-2016 PDF

News Stories




Holyoke, MA 

  • Draft policy $500 fee for city inspection of rooftop poles/roofs every 2 years 
  • Holyoke has submitted an order from councilor Bartley Roman to limit equipment and require $500 apiece per small cell–$500 may exceed FCC limits. At-large councilor Rebecca Lisi, on behalf of a Holyoke resident, recently submitted to the town lawyer a copy of the ordinance drafted by Pittsfield.

Information from


Booneville, Arkansas 


San Jose, California 

Negotiated agreement

“officials made improved access to areas with low internet participation a precondition for reducing fees…agreement set tiered costs per network node installation, with lower fees for companies deploying more nodes. Along with this incentive, three companies pledged to contribute a total of $24 million over the next decade to a digital inclusion fund.” (GovTech)


Note: These were compiled from EHT research of various sources and a special thank you to Physicians for Safe Technology, My Streets My Choice and Last Tree Laws for their extensive resources. Please contact EHT to add your Cities information. 

Other Important Websites on 5G and Small Cells.

MyStreetMyChoice on Small Cells and 5G

Americans For Responsible Technology

Last Tree Laws

Physicians for Safe Technology 5G Resources

International 5G Appeal