Neighborhood meeting tonight on cell phone tower master plan

Wireless communication tower in the Mendenhall Valley. (Photo by Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO)

Wireless communications tower in the Mendenhall Valley. (Photo by Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO)

Like your cellphone, but don’t want a tower in your view?

That’s the dilemma facing Juneau and other communities across the U. S., with the rapid expansion of wireless technology.

The City and Borough of Juneau is working on a master plan for the placement, design and permitting of future towers. Much of the 75-page document is an inventory of  the towers and antennas already installed.

“By looking at that then you can see where’s there’s holes,” says City Manager Kim Kiefer.  “Where do we need to put some more antennas, more towers to get the coverage that we need?”

The master plan will be implemented by a city ordinance that will spell out wireless tower regulations.

“The ordinance actually puts in the place how you go through the process. It is more specific,” Kiefer says. “You can in the ordinance encourage towers to be co-located.  Really we want to push as many antennas on one tower rather than a bunch of single towers.”

She says the ordinance would spell out other details, including how towers would be sited.

Kiefer says city planners will consider public comments as they write the wireless tower regulations.

The first of two neighborhood meetings is Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Assembly chambers at City Hall.  The second hearing is scheduled at the same time on March 27 in the Glacierview Room at the University of Alaska Southeast.

Until the master plan is done, no tower permits will be granted by the city. The plan and ordinance will go through several Planning Commission and Assembly work sessions and public hearings before both are finalized and adopted in mid-May.