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Additional Cell Phone Towers to Locate in Bloomington


June 10, 2016

For more information, please contact:

Mary Catherine Carmichael, 812-349-2489,

Additional Cell Phone Towers to Locate in Bloomington

Bloomington, Ind - City residents may see changes in the right-of-way areas in their neighborhood in the near future, thanks to a newly enacted state law. Cell phone towers will now be allowed to locate in public right-of-ways, resulting in 12 applications so far, 8 of which are in City right-of-ways, with more expected.

During the 2015 legislative cycle the Indiana General Assembly adopted a new chapter in the Indiana Code, Chapter 8-1-32.3. This chapter relates to communication service providers. The legislation strictly limits the power of municipalities to regulate the location of cell phone towers in their communities.

Section 8-1-32.3-17 prohibits local units of government from discriminating among communication providers and/or utilities with respect to providing access to public right-of-ways. All communications providers are entitled to equal access. City staff is required to permit these devices consistent with state and city code.

Regarding the recently enacted legislation, Mayor John Hamilton said, "In the past with home rule we could help determine where the towers would appropriately fit. But now that power has been stripped by the General Assembly. We all know cell towers serve an important need, but taking away a community's ability to decide where they should be located is wrong. This is another example of a legislature that says local rule is good - until they don't. Our Common Council will do what it can to minimize the impact of this, but again, their options are limited. The majority in the General Assembly voted for this legislation with little regard for the effects it would have on our neighborhoods."

So far, the City has received 12 applications to install cell phone towers in different locations around town. Each of the proposed towers is expected to be at least 35 feet tall.

The initial 12 locations where permit applications have been submitted and their status include:

  1. Southeast corner of 2nd and Walnut (issued)

  2. Northeast corner of 2nd and College Mall Rd (not in City Right-of-Way)

  3. South of Dodds where S. College merges into S. Walnut (not yet issued)

  4. Northwest corner of Clarizz and Buick Cadillac (issued)

  5. Southeast Corner of Walnut and Davis (issued)

  6. Southeast of Dixie and Henderson (not yet issued)

  7. Southwest corner of 1st and Stull (not yet issued)

  8. Southwest corner of Walnut and Hillside. (issued)

  9. Southwest corner of 3rd and Clarizz (not in City Right of Way)

  10. Southeast corner of 3rd and Meadowbrook. (not in City Right of Way)

  11. Northwest corner of 3rd and College Mall (not in City Right of Way)

  12. Southwest corner of Brownridge and Fieldcrest. (not yet issued)

These applications forced the City to evaluate the possibility of regulating the future placement of devices in public right-of-ways. The Common Council agreed that this was essential, and after careful review, on April 20 approved the following new code provisions in Title 12 of the Bloomington Municipal Code for entities proposing to install communications or utilities devices in City right of ways:

  • Require a site plan that shows locations of all existing utilities in the right of way, and locations of proposed new installations. This must include distances from all streets, driveways and entrances.

  • Devices may be placed no closer than 2 feet behind a pavement edge.

  • Devices may be no higher than the maximum height permitted for a primary structure in the zoning district (e.g. residential: 35-40 ft; high density residential/commercial: 40-50 ft.).

  • Devices must be separated from existing utilities and devices as appropriate.

  • Replacement devices for existing devices must comply with the new regulations.

  • Devices no longer in use must be removed within 45 days.

  • Each entity with utilities or devices already in place must provide the City with an inventory of the location of every device.

  • There will be fines for violations.

These new code provisions are intended to provide some minor regulation for utilities and communications devices locations in the right-of-ways while the City undertakes a more comprehensive evaluation of how to maintain the neighborhood character and appeal of the its right of ways.

"We will be working with the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns and other communities to see what we can do to fix this mess," continued Hamilton.

While twelve permit applications have been submitted thus far, staff has met with another company that anticipates installing a large number of cell towers in the future (applications anticipated later this year and most to be constructed next year). Originally this company anticipated erecting 10-20 new 'small' poles (35'-75' in height) and about 2 'large' poles (120' in height). That number may increase due to height restrictions, because a 120' pole has a significantly larger service area than a 35' pole.