First on the list is a new ordinance introduced at the April 3 Township Council meeting that will regulate commercial communications antenna and structures designed or capable of supporting them.
“It is not a perfect ordinance, but it fills a very real gap,” said Township Manager John Lovell. “As time goes by towers continue to fill up. No one knows what may happen when they age.”
The issue was brought before the Township Council when residents living near the American Tower, one of the oldest towers in Randolph, complained.
Standing 440 feet tall since World War II, it supports dish-style communications systems, not cell phones. Cell phone towers are typically 150 feet tall, which is considerably less. Regardless, the continued structural integrity of this type of structure has become a concern.
The ordinance introduced actually amends two pre-existing ordinances; the property maintenance code and the land development ordinance.
The property maintenance code will include a new section that requires the owner of a commercial communication antenna (CCA) structure to annually file with the township a certification outlining pertinent ownership, emergency contact information, whether or not CCAs on a structure are active or inactive, and a structural integrity certification accompanied by an inspection report that is no more than five years old.
A discussion was held on the possibility of having the township engineer conduct inspections of towers, but Lovell advised against such inspections to avoid liability.
“The required certification and inspection reports would be prepared for an owner by a licensed engineer whose license would be jeopardized if not done properly,” said Lovell.
CCA owners will also be required to remove antennas that have been inactive for more than 60 days, and to properly maintain equipment compounds by mowing grass, trimming hedges and bushes, and keeping fences in good repair.
At the same time the township’s land development ordinance will be amended to more clearly define and establish information applicants to the Planning Board and zoning Board of Adjustment will have to submit and requiring them to comply with the new section of the property maintenance code.
Councilwoman Joanne Veech said the township should also begin considering other types of structures now that the CCA issue has been addressed. She said the Township Council should review regulations that would govern energy-generating structures such as wind turbines, solar panels and fracking.
Lovell said he does not believe “fracking,” a method by which energy companies draw natural gas from shale rock underground, is likely to become an issue in Randolph as it has in other areas of the country, but agreed it is in the best interest of the community to make sure local regulations keep pace with advances in all sorts of modern technology.
A public hearing on the proposed ordinance will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 3, in the town hall on Millbrook Avenue.