Regulating Wireless Facilities in Public Rights-of-Way

Zoning Practice — November 2016

By Lawrence Monroe, Jackie Hicks


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Communities nationwide are being faced with a new wireless facility siting issue: applicants claiming the need and right to locate new wireless facilities in public rights-of-way. Wireless carriers face a demand by the consuming public for ever-increasing capacity, speed, and reliability. In response, carriers are building a number of smaller wireless facilities, each serving only a portion of a conventional macrocell.

This shift to smaller sites, coupled with the shorter transmission and receive distances involved, is intended to result in the increased capacity, speed, and reliability the public demands. As a consequence, communities will be faced with the challenge of finding ways to accommodate the number of new facilities needed to meet the public's demand without upsetting a large segment of the same public by allowing structures that change neighborhood character, negatively impact property values, or present a threat to public safety. It's a classic NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) situation.

This issue of Zoning Practice clarifies local regulatory options for wireless facilities in public rights-of-way (PROW). It presents a set of recommendations aimed at minimizing land-use conflicts and securing fair compensation for use of PROW.


Page Count
Date Published
Nov. 1, 2016
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American Planning Association

About the Authors

Lawrence Monroe

Jackie Hicks