The City Council on Tuesday directed officials to look at options for limiting how and where wireless telecommunications facilities are built, particularly when it involves buildings such as churches and libraries and in residential areas.
Among the options discussed was the potential for putting the wireless equipment underground. Stricter regulations, such as requiring testing for radio frequency emissions, time-limits on permits and increased public noticing to local residents, also were discussed.
“The thrust of, I think, everyone up here is that we want to provide optimal, reasonable protection to residential communities,” said Councilman David Gordon.
The discussion came just four months after a campaign from residents against a proposed wireless facility on top of the Little White Chapel on N. Avon Street. Residents argued the equipment would negatively impact public health, traffic, and property values, but the council ultimately rejected the project due mostly to aesthetic concerns.
Currently, building-mounted towers are allowed with a conditional-use permit on institutional properties — churches, hospitals, libraries, government buildings and other public facilities — in single-family-residential zones. Ten Burbank properties fall under the category, excluding school campuses, since Burbank Unified School District policy prohibits cellphone towers on school sites.
But city officials were worried that banning cellphone towers on so-called institutional properties could drive telecommunications companies to seek out multi-family properties, such as apartment buildings and condominiums, or commercial properties.
“The quality of life of someone living in an [single-family] home, or people in apartments or condos, is no different whatsoever,” said Councilman Gary Bric.
Officials continued to grapple with where to install new towers.
“Where are we going to put them? I don’t know. We do need them — everyone understands that,” Bric said. “It’s just a matter of finding the appropriate places to place them.”
Resident Kathryn Merlo didn’t deny the high demand for wireless capability in Burbank.
“Just about every person I know wants a new 4G tablet,” she said.
Merlo has said previously that her family stopped using cellphones more than three years ago because of health concerns.
She asked the city to consider requiring telecommunications companies to administer tests on how the wireless facilities impact public health.
The issue will return to the City Council in several months, according to Patrick Prescott, the city’s assistant community development director.
“I think staff has to digest what council is looking for them to do and come back to us with some information on how long it’s going to take,” Mayor Dave Golonski said on Wednesday. “The bottom line is we still look at these on a case-by-case basis.”