Six Good Reasons for a Municipality to Adopt a Telecommunications Ordinance


The federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits states and towns from deciding cell tower locations based solely on health concerns, but does preserve local/state rights to determine the placement, construction and modification of towers, based on valid zoning standards. Town regulations can provide the following protections against undesirable and unwise cell tower placement.


  1. A town can adopt zoning regulations to
  • Encourage use of certain locations, such as industrial or commercial areas.
  • Encourage location on municipally owned properties or rights of way.
  • Minimize intrusion into residential and historic districts.
  • Encourage consolidation and collocation of tower antennas to prevent proliferation
  • Require that municipal first responder services be placed on commercial towers.


  1. A town can prohibit placement of towers where they spoil scenic views, historic sites, wetlands and aesthetic features and landmarks.


  1. A town can establish scenic setbacks keeping towers away from roads and important buildings, including schools, libraries, historic structures and important public buildings.


  1. A town can require tower applicants to provide a site study to show that RF radiation from the tower will meet FCC limits for public exposure, and create adequate coverage without overbuilding a network.


  1. A town can limit the number, size and design of tower antennas and poles to conform to town aesthetic standards.


  1. A town can require a public information meeting as part of the state-mandated municipal consultation process for a new cell tower.

Essential Elements of a Good Telecommunications Ordinance

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