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Aspen Reviews Rules For New 5G 'Small Cell' Technology

Apr 28, 2020

A depiction of a lamppost with small cell technology contained inside.
Credit via City of Aspen

Tuesday night, Aspen City Council will review a set of zoning guidelines for wireless facilities. Federal and state rules do not allow local governments to exercise much control over the installation of “small cell” infrastructure, which is a component of 5G technology. Aspen’s guidelines are designed to control the aspects of size, design and location that are within the city’s purview.

“We think that this ordinance that we’re putting forward is finding a nice balance between complying with state and federal law regarding wireless facilities but also protecting values that have been important to Aspen for a long time,” said Ben Anderson, principal long range planner for the City of Aspen.

The package of proposed guidelines is up for second reading at city council’s regular meeting. Many transmitters will be built into existing streetlights, which are limited to 25 feet in height by the city’s rules. The guidelines also detail specifics for lamppost design and include a list of historic buildings and parks near which installation would be prohibited.

"It's clear to us that a lot of members of our community are concerned about potential health impacts of 5G facilities. But right now, federal law does not allow us to regulate these facilities based on perceived health concerns."

A rule from the Federal Communications Commission dictates that cities can’t prohibit the installation of wireless facilities on the grounds of health concerns. 

“It's clear to us that a lot of members of our community are concerned about potential health impacts of 5G facilities,” Anderson said. “Staff certainly thinks that those concerns are valid, and we're continuing to pay attention to the science on this. But right now, federal law does not allow us to regulate these facilities based on perceived health concerns.”

So far, the city has only received two applications to install small cell facilities, but Anderson expects more to come soon.