Lower Frederick Hopes to Add Speedy 5G for its Future

SPRING MOUNT PA – Lower Frederick needs to be prepared for a future of blazingly fast wireless telecommunications, its Board of Supervisors agrees. Before reaching that goal, though, board members acknowledge they must first revise portions of the township zoning ordinance that haven’t changed in 20 years.

To put the era in perspective, that’s back when Americans worried that the so-called “Y2K” turn of the century bug would make many electronic devices unusable. When playing music on a cell phone was a just-catching-on innovation. And when phones with full but miniaturized keyboards began to appear as slide-out options for a phenomenon that would later become known as “texting.”

Today the public is seeing, hearing, and beginning to experience “5G,” a fifth generation communications network that promises – once fully built – to quickly and endlessly connect people to their phones, their homes, their devices and appliances, and their self-driving cars. Those are just for starters, but they offer an idea of how powerful and attractive 5G might someday be.

It’s a cutting-edge future supervisors claim they’re ready to embrace, and one they have publicly discussed since late June. New township Solicitor Peter Nelson has been asked to help obtain it.

Nelson is an attorney with the Perkasie PA-based law firm of Grim, Biehn & Thatcher. He and the firm were hired at the board’s Aug. 25 work session to succeed former Solicitor Andrew Bellwoar, who resigned in March.

Six days later, during the supervisors’ Sept. 1 general meeting, township Manager Mark Hudson reported Nelson had already submitted a proposed estimate of $2,500 to fix Section 170-29, the zoning paragraphs that address “satellite dishes, antennas, and cellular communications antennas and towers.”

Nelson updated the board again Wednesday (Nov. 4) during its meeting. He has suggested the section be “unpacked” and split into two parts. One would regulate legacy equipment like cell towers, satellite TV dishes, and a variety of antennas. The other would govern new telecommunications items that include “small cell wireless facilities,” which make 5G speeds possible.

The new language, he said, will ensure township zoning complies with current Federal Communications Commission requirements.

Supervisors were pleased with Nelson’s plan, but Vice Chair Marla Hexter and Supervisor Noelle Halter asked if a design manual for incorporating small cell wireless facilities into building exteriors and landscape elements could be referenced separately. That would allow the manual to be updated periodically without also having to revise the ordinance, they said.

“It would keep it a little cleaner, and make life easier for everybody,” board Chair Chuck Yeiser agreed.

As long as manual specifications did not “affect the usefulness” of the facilities by limiting their positioning, Nelson said, he considered the separation possible. More discussion on the topic is anticipated at future meetings, Hudson indicated.

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