Council mulls wireless communication plan
Gresham City Council spent another meeting Tuesday, Oct. 5, trying to iron out details about how to best regulate the inclusion of small wireless communication booster devices across the community.
While no final conclusion has been reached, with a goal being to strike a balance between needed technological improvements and neighborhood livability, the council was able to give city staff direction as they move forward with the project.
"We had hoped to have a policy change to the code for you to vote on," Chris Strong, Gresham's transportation division manager, told the councilors. "Instead this is a chance to continue to build on the discussion."
Wireless communication facilities are used by residents and businesses as a key part of the communications infrastructure. The companies behind the services want to bring "small cell" facilities into the community, which are a newer technology designed to fill out and improve coverage.
The "small cells" are shorter, have a smaller footprint and send less powerful signals. In other cities across the country, these devices have been placed on existing utility poles or traffic lights. Some extend from the top of the pole, while others are designed to be more aesthetically pleasing. In Gresham, they would be placed in residential neighborhoods, where they are needed. Each company would also need their own small cell.
Gresham councilors are working to decide what types of poles the "small cells" should be placed on, how large the devices should be, screening policies and a fee structure.
"For me, this is all about design," said Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis. "I am open to this technology, but I am focused on the aesthetic for the city."
Of all the designs presented, councilors leaned toward a "SmartPole" which was pioneered in Los Angeles. That has everything enclosed within one section, which would bulge out from the pole.
"Looking at this, I think it is ugly too," said Councilor Karylinn Echols. "Though probably the least ugly of all of them."
All of the councilors agreed the small cells should not be placed on the city's decorative light poles, like those found along Main Avenue in downtown, unless a more visually pleasing option is found. They also are concerned about each of the companies needing their own "small cell," as it would flood neighborhoods with the devices.
"It's kind of like the Wild West," Bemis said. "If you say yes to one or two companies, then you'll have three more lined up to come in."
This topic will come before the council again after more details and design options are nailed down.
"I do think there are plausible options here, I think we are on the right track," said Councilor Jerry Hinton.