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An end-around for cell towers

Local officials have long been frustrated with what to do about wireless telecommunications equipment — companies say customers need them for better cellular reception, but those same customers, as residents, say they don’t want them in their neighborhoods.

Complicating matters are federal laws that prohibit local governments from regulating cellular equipment based on the very criteria about which residents have the strongest fears: public health.

Residents have for years formed opposition groups to counter the propagation of so-called cell sites out of fear that the radio waves could pose long-term threats to their health — a fear federal regulators and telecommunications companies say is unfounded, and therefore can’t be used as a basis for reviewing site applications.

And so Burbank, as other cities have done, has taken an alternate approach to reining in the equipment, approving rules this week that allow officials to consider aesthetics when reviewing applications. The new rules also encourage shared location of cell towers and make it easier to apply to install equipment in non-residential areas.


It may not be the sweeping power whip some residents had hoped for, but when the federal stick looms large, sometimes the targeted end-around is the best approach.