After a moratorium that lasted more than three years, the Planning and Natural Resources Department on Wednesday will again accept applications for telecommunication towers, announced Planning Commissioner Alicia Barnes in a Monday press release.
The move comes just a bit over a month since Gov. John deJongh Jr. signed into law the Wireless Facility and Wireless Support Structure Rules and Regulations on Dec. 23, 2011, which cleared the way for lifting the moratorium on issuing permits for tower construction.
The department currently has no inventory of existing telecommunications towers, but Stuart Smith, director of the department’s Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Division, said that the new regulations require all existing towers to come into compliance.
“So in six months, we’ll have an inventory,” Smith suggested.
Smith expects there will be some new towers going up across the territory, but said those who want to build them will have to prove they can’t find room for their equipment on existing towers.
And they’ll have to fill out a raft of paperwork. The rules and regulations include 27 different documents needed to apply.
In addition to the usual names and addresses of owners and engineers, the requirements include a certified copy of the survey map and a clearance letter from the State Historic Preservation Office. The letter is needed to determine if there are historical artifacts on the property.
Smith said the new towers will be located in areas where none currently exist to provide coverage. He said that in particular, there are areas of St. Croix that have no coverage.
When new towers get permits, they’ll have to be designed to “carry a certain capacity,” Smith said.
He said it was unlikely they’d proliferate in residential areas because new ones have to have a setback at least one times the height of the tower.
Additionally, Smith said the department is promoting “stealth technology,” which means new towers would go up inside existing edifices like church steeples and sugar mills or as an extension on top of existing things like flag poles.
Smith said there would be probably “four or five” applications ready to go once Planning begins acting on applications.
According to the press release, in December 2008 the department experienced a marked increase in the number of permit applications for construction of communication towers throughout the territory. At that time it was necessary for the regulatory language to be updated in order to keep abreast of the present level of advancement in the telecommunication industry while balancing the safety and general welfare of the community.
During the moratorium, Planning conducted a comprehensive study and analysis of the applicable zoning and development regulations required for implementation.
Applications will be available at Planning’s Building Permits Division. The applications need to reviewed by the Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Division to make sure the site meets zoning requirements.
Smith said the regulations will be available this week on Planning’s website at www.dpnr.gov.vi. It’s not currently active, but Smith said it would be shortly.
Additionally, he said Planning will send the regulations electronically or they may be picked up at the Building Permits offices.
Call Planning at 774-3320 on St. Thomas or 773-1082 on St. Croix. The number on St. John is 693-8735.