A standard part of wireless telecommunications facilities ordinances is the specification of setbacks for towers. In the case of these facilities, setbacks are important because they are often used as proxies for a tower's “fall zone,” typically defined as the area within a prescribed radius around the base of a wireless telecommunications tower within which there is a potential hazard from falling debris, such as ice, collapsing material or the collapse of the tower itself. In many cases, as you suggest, communities adopt special provisions regarding setbacks of cell towers from residential properties in particular to ensure that in the case of a tower collapse, the residential structure is out of harm’s way.

Here below are some regional distance requirements:



Athens-Clarke County, GA

Total height of the tower plus 400' from single and two-family residential district boundaries

Augusta, GA

Height of the tower from off-site residential structures; height of the tower from property lines bordering single-family residentially zoned lots

Roswell, GA

Height of the tower from the nearest residential lot line

Savannah, GA

Height of the tower to dwellings and property lines; less if tower has breakpoint design technology

Cary, NC

Height of the tower from property line of residentially zoned property

Charleston, SC

Height of the tower from residential zoned property, but for flush-mount and stealth monopoles, tower height

Columbia, SC

Setbacks from residential districts range from 150' to 500' depending on the type of the tower

Fort Lauderdale, FL

Greater of 200' or 200% of tower height from residentially used or zoned property

Hialeah, FL

200% of tower height from nearest residential district line

Huntsville, AL

Greater of 200' or tower height to residential structure

Mobile, AL

Greater of 200' or 150% of tower height to closest point of residentially zoned land

Tallahassee, FL

200' from nearest residential lot line and 250' from nearest lot line of single-family or duplex dwelling

Athens-Clarke County and Augusta-Richmond County are the only consolidated governments in the study.

Former Mayor Poydashef is inquiring about reducing the distance from 300 feet from a residential structure to the distance requirement in the 1998 zoning ordinance: height of tower length from nearest residential structure. As you will see above, the ranges run from the extreme (height of tower plus 400' in Athens) to minimal (less than height of tower if it has breakpoint design technology aka monopole in Savannah).

The Personal Communications Industry Association (PCIA) represents the interests of providers and tower companies. Their language suggestion is as follows:

(B) Setbacks

(1) Property Lines. Unless otherwise stated herein, Support Structures shall be set back from all property lines a distance equal to their height measured from the base of the structure to its highest point.

(2) Residential Dwellings. Unless otherwise stated herein, Monopoles, Towers and other Support Structures shall be set back from all off-site residential dwellings a distance equal to the height of the structure. There shall be no setback requirement from dwellings located on the same parcel as the proposed structure. Existing or Replacement structures shall not be subject to a setback requirement.

Regarding collapses, most tower collapses have been lattice/guyed towers. Considerable research has been done on tower collapses and monopoles have shown to be the most resilient type.

The Planning Department recommends that any reduction in distance from a residential structure be considered for monopole cell towers only.