City Council Chamber, 1st floor, City Hall

March 26, 2018

2:00 p.m.


Location: City Council Chamber, City Hall – St. James Building, 117 West Duval Street


In attendance: Council Members Lori Boyer (Chair), Al Ferraro, Aaron Bowman, Jim Love, Danny Becton, Matt Schellenberg, Joyce Morgan, John Crescimbeni


Also: Paige Johnston and Jason Teal – Office of General Counsel; Heather Reber – Council Auditor’s Office; Bill Killingsworth and Mike Sands – Planning and Development Department; Jordan Pope - JEA


Meeting Convened: 2:01 p.m.


Council Member Lori Boyer called the meeting to order and the attendees introduced themselves for the record. The purpose of the meeting is to review and gather information about to pending legislation 2017-863, and there will be a public comment period at the end of the agenda. Ms. Boyer reviewed the agenda and order of business and the packet of handouts.


Attorney Jason Teal of the General Counsel’s Office reviewed the exemptions and restrictions, exclusions and limitations included in various parts of the state statutes regarding small cell facilities. Florida Department of Transportation roads are not mandated to allow these facilities as local governments are. Certain retirement communities are also allowed to prohibit these facilities if they meet certain criteria based on deed restrictions, size, and underground utilities.  Certain small municipalities located on barrier islands with underground utilities are exempt. Utility poles (including signs) shorter than 15 feet are exempt unless the local government determines otherwise, as are privately owned utility poles or poles on private property (i.e. monopoles, signs, flagpoles, etc.). Municipal or co-op utility electric poles and poles owned by or located in an area subject to homeowner association deed restrictions, covenants, by-laws, etc. are exempted. Mr. Teal interprets this last provision to apply to utility poles in public rights of way within those HOA areas. Council Member Crescimbeni suggested the possibility of creating a countywide homeowner association to cover all areas without such an association using the provisions of the Zoning Code as the covenants and restrictions of the association as a means of applying the HOA exemption to most of the city. In response to questions from the Chair, Mr. Teal confirmed that the City retains the right to regulate use of private poles in City rights-of-way by means of its permitting system and that the City could also adopt uniform standards for pole use that would apply in City rights-of-way within the boundaries of HOAs. Finally, there is an exemption for historic districts for which regulations existed before April 1, 2017 (even if the district was created later than that date), historic sites and landmarks which does not allow total prohibition, but does allow regulation to require communications facilities to be compatible with historic district standards and receive certificates of appropriateness.


In response to a question about whether the City has authority to implement uniform standards for small cell facilities on JEA poles and City-owned poles, Mr. Teal said that the City could control what goes into its rights-of-way. His review of the JEA tariff agreement doesn’t find any prohibition against the City’s ability to regulate the installations on those poles, with the proviso that the regulations can’t interfere with the primary purpose for which the pole exists in the first place (i.e. to carry electric lines or a street light) or impose an undue maintenance burden. In response to a question from Council Member Schellenberg, Mr. Teal explained that small cell providers have the ability to erect their own poles to provide their service and that unduly restricting the use of existing public poles could influence private service providers to erect their own to serve their needs. Ms. Boyer confirmed that the City can adopt standards that would apply to installations on JEA poles, subject to the functionality of their pole. The committee members generally agreed that uniform standards for City and JEA poles would be desirable and would be easier for Code Enforcement to manage. Council Member Love questioned whether uniform standards could be developed that would cover all types of poles in all locations (wood, concrete, aluminum; solid vs. hollow; historic vs. non-historic, etc.).


Jordan Pope of JEA distributed a handout showing different types of JEA street lights and electric distribution poles and discussed JEA’s current standards for small cell attachments on those poles. He had previously circulated by e-mail photos of small cell installations in other cities on various pole types. Council Member Crescimbeni recommended that the City establish uniform standard poles and mandate that JEA use those poles (including replacing existing poles) if it wishes to allow use of their poles by small cell providers rather than the City adopting standards to match what JEA has already developed.


Gary Vondrasek, JEA Manager of Telecom Sales and Services, said that JEA’s standard is that the antenna always be at the top of the pole, regardless of pole type, and that there only be one antenna per pole. He understands that antennas are now being developed that can handle 2 carriers in a single antenna. Council Member Ferraro asked if poles are manufactured that could contain all the workings (radio equipment, cables, etc.) inside the pole rather than hung on the exterior. Mr. Vondrasek said that such a pole would need to have a considerably larger diameter than current poles to contain all the necessary components. The minimum separation between the electric conductor and the antenna must be 40 inches. Other guidelines include grounding requirements; radio frequency warning signage as mandated by the Federal Communication Commission; electric metering; a structural analysis stamp certifying the pole’s strength; a requirement that JEA perform all construction and maintenance work (except that the wireless carrier may perform ground work); a requirement that JEA may require relocation of private provider fixtures at the provider’s expense if JEA’s needs change; and JEA reserves the right to modify work rules or guidelines for wireless installations.  


Chairwoman Boyer posed questions about the sizes of the electrical disconnect box, surge protector, radio cabinet, etc. Mr. Vondrasek said that JEA recognizes that each provider will have different equipment from different manufacturers, but the goal is to minimize size for all the elements.  In response to a question from Council Member Crescimbeni, Jason Teal said that the state statute requires that all ancillary equipment needed to make a small cell functional must be permitted as well. He did not see anything in the statutes that would prohibit the City from requiring that all ancillary equipment be underground, but that would be a question for the industry about whether that is feasible since the intent of the law is to mandate that small cell sites be reasonably allowed to operate. The statute allows the ancillary equipment to occupy up to 24 cubic feet of space. He is not aware of any other jurisdictions that require undergrounding of such equipment. Ms. Boyer suggested that there could be different standards for the location of the ancillary equipment, depending on their size. Smaller equipment could be pole-mounted; larger equipment would be at ground level or perhaps underground. Mr. Teal said that design standards could include items such as landscaping for ground-mounted facilities and possibly appearance, decorative or screening features.


Mike Sands of the Planning and Development Department said that his office had reviewed design standards from other Florida jurisdictions, including wind resistance, size, antenna and ancillary equipment location, etc. He said that the department would recommend not using the decorative “acorn” street light poles for this purpose because it would detract from their aesthetic appearance, unless it used a decorative pole that contained the cellular equipment inside the pole. Ms. Boyer asked for advice on what sort of alternative pole could be erected for the small cell installation that would reasonably reflect the character of the historic light poles. Mr. Sands said that he would re-send an email sent by Public Works Director John Pappas several months ago about a variety of location and appearance criteria to assist the committee in developing its standards. Council Member Ferraro hoped the committee could come up with a variety of standards for equipment appearance and location that would enable the companies to customize their installations to meet differing community desires in different parts of the city. He invited suggestions from anyone who could offer ideas (Planning Department, JEA, wireless providers).


Chairwoman Boyer listed several factors that the committee may wish to discuss at a future meeting: height of pole-mounted cabinet versus on the ground versus underground; shroud/covering on equipment and wiring; uniform standard citywide on all poles versus standards varying by pole type; and consideration of use of traffic signal poles. Council Member Bowman suggested discussion of criteria for new pole where they are being installed instead of using existing poles. Ms. Boyer suggested the need for siting criteria (distance from other poles, location in relation to sidewalks and street furniture, etc.).  Council Member Bowman asked JEA to research what other cities are charging as permit fees for use of public rights-of-way; he believes JEA’s $1300 permit fee per year sounds excessive. Jason Teal noted that the state statute caps fees charged by the city for use of its poles at $150 per year, but the JEA is free to negotiate a fee with the users for its poles. The fact that a JEA pole is located in a City right-of-way does not give the City the right to dictate the fee. Mr. Bowman asked Mr. Teal to further research that point and how it could be changed. Chairwoman Boyer said that the City could consider imposing a fee cap as a part of its permit for allowing JEA to use the City right-of-way. Council Member Schellenberg asked for information on the liability of all parties involved if something happens to an antenna and pole.


Public comment

Christopher Parra with Uniti Fiber displayed a 5 watt small cell cabinet that could contain antennas to serve 3 companies (approximately 4 feet tall by 18 inches by 18 inches). Mr. Parra said that, with regard to the earlier discussion of placing the cabinet underground, that poses a problem with water intrusion and system reliability, which would be especially important in the event of a hurricane when you would want the system to be as reliable as possible but the amount of water in the ground could be problematic. Also, the greater the distance between the antenna on top of the pole and the cabinet at the bottom, the greater the signal degradation and thus the more cells that would need to be installed to provide adequate coverage. He said that equipment manufacturers have catalogs of types of cabinets and shrouds they can produce to meet various aesthetic considerations. In reference to an article in the New York Times yesterday on small cell wireless installations referenced by Council Member Schellenberg, Mr. Parra said that the coverage of the small cells being discussed ranges from 500 feet to 1,500 feet depending on the height of the pole and the wattage of the system. He said that in some major cities, small cell is the future of wireless communication; large towers are a thing of the past and are used only as backup capacity. He referenced Sacramento, California as the leader in deploying 5G service, crafting regulations to attract service providers there first in order to be leader in the field. In response to a question from Council Member Boyer, Mr. Parra said that their target antenna height is 30-35 feet for best coverage and signal strength.


Alicia Grant, President of Scenic Jacksonville, applauded the committee for taking a hard look at small cell equipment and regulations. Her organization is very interested in promoting undergrounding of utilities and wants to keep that in the forefront of council members’ minds and make that a consideration in crafting new regulations. She recommended putting this new technology in alleyways where they are available and using poles appropriate to the neighborhood, especially in historic districts and designated scenic byways.


In response to a question from Council Member Boyer about whether JEA had a preference for locating small cells on streetlights versus utility poles, Mr. Vondrasek said that location on street lights is easier from a logistical perspective because power lines aren’t a consideration. Some carriers prefer street light poles.


The next meeting will be noticed on April 9, 2018.


 Meeting adjourned: 3:54 p.m.


The written minutes of this meeting are only an overview of what was discussed. The following items have been submitted for the public record. Please contact Legislative Services for these items.


Minutes: Jeff Clements, Council Research

   04.9.18     Posted 5:00 p.m.


Tapes:  Joint LUZ and TEU Special Committee Meeting – LSD