Aesthetics for 5G lights approved by BOMA

More than a year after Farragut Municipal Planning Commission reluctantly approved 11 small cell support structures proposed by Verizon, the Town now has approved an Aesthetic Plan for Vertical Utility Infrastructure in Public Rights of Ways to help potentially regulate future installations.

Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Alderman approved a resolution adding the fairly comprehensive yet flexible Aesthetic Plan to the Farragut Municipal Code during its regular Thursday, Feb. 11, bi-monthly meeting.

Community Development director Mark Shipley has worked on the parameters of the plan since shortly after the Verizon structures were approved by FMPC in January 2020.

While State law prohibits any municipality from banning small cell support structures outright, it does allow aesthetic considerations to be applied “provided we do it in a manner that is non-discriminatory,” Shipley’s report to BOMA stated.

While the Town already requires all new utilities be installed underground, that requirement would not pertain to small cell structures, which by design must be above ground. “We have tried to get ahead of the curve regarding (future) small cell issues,” Shipley said. “Basically, we want to minimize the number of any new poles in Town, and if one is proposed for it to be as discreet as possible.”

Helping hone the new policy was an Aesthetic Plan committee comprised of several Farragut homeowners, a BOMA member, an FMPC member and a Lenoir City Utilities Board representative, which met twice virtually then presented the Plan to the FMPC for review in December.

Ongoing discussions among the committee members expanded the topic to include all vertical utility components, not just small cell structures.

“Since the plan will address all new vertical utilities and not just telecommunications structures, a question for the committee has been whether the Town should have light fixture and mounting styles specified for different streetlight applications,” Shipley’s BOMA report stated.

“One of the things we spent a fair amount of time on dealt with lighting, and what kind of lighting does the town want to see over time, and in specific locations.” he added.

One firm decision made was that any new future poles would be composed of galvanized steel.

After making a few small changes recommended by Town attorney Tom Hale, FMPC workshopped the Plan at its Dec. 17 meeting, then approved it at the Jan. 21 meeting. The plan was then forwarded to BOMA for further consideration and final approval.

Alderman Scott Meyer asked about the difference between the Plan being approved as a resolution as opposed to an ordinance.

“It just required one meeting to approve a resolution, as opposed to two meetings for an ordinance,” Shipley said. “It’s just a little quicker (to pass) and easier to make modifications.”

“State law allows Towns to do either an ordinance or a resolution, but they both have the same impact,” Town administrator David Smoak added.

In other business, BOMA unanimously approved on first reading an ordinance to rezone131.23 acres at the intersection of McFee and Boyd Station roads from General Single Family (R-2) to Open space Mixed Residential overlay (R-1/OSMR). It is being eyed for a future housing development offering both attached and detached single family homes. BOMA is set to consider the matter on second reading this Thursday, Feb. 26.