Irvington passes ordinance on first reading to amend zoning code for small cell wireless facilities

IRVINGTON, NJ — In the year 2020, some cities and towns are looking to make a much-needed upgrade. Recognizing that technology plays a key role in life these days, the township of Irvington plans to upgrade its zoning regulations to allow for small cell wireless facilities, which would enhance internet and communication capabilities for residents.

On Sept. 28, the Irvington Council approved on first reading an ordinance to amend the zoning regulations of the city’s code with the addition of a new section titled “Telecommunications in the public right-of-way.”

According to the ordinance, which was published in its entirety in the back pages of last week’s Irvington Herald, the amendment’s purpose is to provide for reasonable regulations concerning the placement of small cell wireless facilities within the township, consistent with state and federal law, through the implementation of a right-of-way approval and permitting procedure.

According to the ordinance, the township is aware that the telecommunications industry is rapidly developing and that there is a strong desire among telecommunication companies to look for areas within municipalities for the placement of small cell wireless facilities by accessing rights-of-way.

According to the website of Danville, Calif., a town that approved a similar ordinance, small cell wireless facilities can be an asset to a municipality.

“Small cell wireless facilities can be described as a type of wireless broadband infrastructure,” the website read. “Unlike cell towers, which are often referred to as ‘macrocells,’ small cell facilities typically take the form of smaller antennas, which are 3 to 4 feet tall, that are placed on existing infrastructure, such as utility poles. These devices are new and are taking the place of cell towers. Small cell facilities can reach up to nearly 100 feet high and are designed to cover larger geographic areas.”

According to National League of Cities, an advocate organization that supports municipalities across the nation, this cellular network facility is capable of faster transmission of higher volumes.

“These facilities help to complement or stretch macrocell coverage and add capacity in high-demand areas,” the NLC writes in its report “Municipal Action Guide: Small Cell Wireless Technology in Cities.” “Small cell infrastructure is typically deployed to alleviate capacity constraints where crowds gather or to cover targeted areas, including public squares and spaces, downtown pedestrian areas, parks, office buildings, campuses, or stadiums and arenas.”

According to the NLC, in order to provide 5G to consumers, wireless service providers will often seek to build these facilities on public rights-of-way, as these locations can cater to two of these facilities’ needs: data via fiber optic cable and power.

Irvington Council President Renee Burgess detailed how this new venture would affect the township.

“The placement of small wireless facilities was introduced to the council a few months ago, advising that the enhanced services would improve cell phone and internet speed, as well as bring in revenue to the township,” Burgess said on Oct. 12.

Originally on the fence about the new installation, Burgess said that she was eventually won over in favor of the idea.

“I was apprehensive when the idea was first pitched to me,” Burgess said. “So, I asked the representatives to come back with more information on how this concept will benefit our town and if it was safe. I received all positive responses.”

Utilizing technology, the idea will benefit the township and help further the community, according to Burgess.

“I look forward to this new venture in upgrading Irvington’s technology, which in turn will give our residents another resource to tap into,” Burgess said. “The placement of small cell wireless facilities will possibly be implemented by the end of the year, into the new 2021 year.”

The council will hold a public hearing and final vote on the small cell wireless facility ordinance on Oct. 26.

Burgess also expressed urgency about the upcoming election and how imperative it is for Irvington voters to venture out and vote.

“I would also like to mention to all that this November’s election is very important,” Burgess said. “Everyone’s voice needs to be heard by casting a vote.”