Get a passing grade in history
Jumping the historic preservation hoops may become easier if you collocate on an existing tower.
Here comes a penetrating glimpse of the obvious: Constructing a tower usually entails disturbing the earth in some fashion and putting a structure on, ideally, a hilltop.
Less obvious is that these two simple requirements have potential impacts on historic preservation issues that must be addressed to achieve construction. Most licensees and tower construction companies are aware that an environmental assessment is required to show compliance with, or no adverse effect on, requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. Part 1 of the FCC rules also requires applicants to provide an EA to show compliance with, or no adverse effect on historic sites.
To minimize regulatory paperwork for new tower construction, one FCC effort is aimed at making antenna collocation on existing sites the preferred first option.
As this is being written, the FCC is expected to enter into a “programmatic agreement” with the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation on Jan. 29. The agreement could, in a sense, be considered a memorandum of understanding within the federal government. The intent of the agreement is to streamline procedures for reviewing antenna collocations for compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act.
Section 106 of the NHPA requires federal agencies, like the FCC, to assess the effects of their undertakings on historic properties and to give the ACHP an opportunity to comment.
On Jan. 11, new regulations went into effect that govern how federal agencies take historic properties into account, as mandated by Section 106 of the NHPA (16 U.S.C. 470f). ACHP is an independent federal agency that monitors Federal activities, programs, and policies affecting historic resources.
A telecommunications working group was formed by the ACHP in August 2000, comprising the FCC, telecom industry representatives, State Historic Preservation Officers and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers. The expected January agreement fostered by the working group improves Section 106 compliance, with the intent of making collocation an attractive alternative to new tower construction.
The agreement allows licensees or tower construction companies to collocate new antennas on existing towers constructed on or before Dec. 31, 2000, without an historic consultation review, provided that:
o the mounting of the antenna will not result in a substantial increase in the size of the tower (see box on page 44).
o the tower has not been already determined by the FCC to have an effect on historic properties or there is already a “no adverse effect” determination or MoU.
o there is no pending environmental review or related proceeding before the FCC relating to NHPA Section 106 compliance.
o there is no known outstanding or pending complaint from any source (the public, an SHPO/THPO or the ACHP), that the proposed collocation has an adverse effect on historic properties.
For new towers constructed in 2001 and beyond, the historic consultation review for collocation is also waived, based on the above guidelines and provided that the Section 106 review process and any associated environmental reviews by the FCC have been completed.
The agreement also waives the historic consultation review process for collocation of antennas on buildings and non-tower structures outside of historic districts if:
o the building or structure is less than 45 years old.
o the structure is outside any historic district, or if visible from that district, it is at least 250 feet away from the boundary.
o the building or structure is not a designated National Historic Landmark, a locally designated historic property, listed in the state register of historic properties, or listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, based on the review of the licensee or tower owner.
o there is no pending Section 106 NHPA review.
o there are no received or pending historical impact complaints.
In addition to written notice to federal agencies and SHPOs, public notice of properties deemed eligible for the NRHP are published in the Federal Register at regular intervals and in a cumulative edition each February.
The FCC/ACHP/NCSHPO agreement defines a change in tower size as a “substantial increase” if:
1) mounting a proposed antenna would increase the existing tower height by more than 10%, or by the height of one additional antenna array, with separation from the nearest existing antenna not to exceed 20 feet, whichever is greater; or
2) mounting the proposed antenna would require more than the standard number of new equipment cabinets for the technology involved, not to exceed four, or more than one new equipment shelter; or
3) mounting the proposed antenna requires adding a structure to the body of the tower that would protrude more than 20 feet, or more than the width of the tower structure at the level of the appurtenance, whichever is greater; or
4) mounting the proposed antenna would involve excavation outside the current site, defined as the current boundaries of the leased or owned property surrounding the tower and any access or utility easements related to the site.