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Wrightstown, Upper Makefield and Newtown townships focus on wireless communication poles

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Township leaders in Wrightstown, Upper Makefield and Newtown townships are making progress on an initiative to update local zoning related to wireless communication poles and the like.
The municipalities, which handle zoning issues collectively through the Newtown Area Joint Municipal Zoning Council (Jointure), have been working on amendments to the existing wireless communication section of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance.
Part of the updates include measures to ensure wireless infrastructure doesn’t become what Wrightstown Supervisor Chairman Chester Pogonowski has described as an “eyesore.” The updates also aim to align the zoning with current federal and state requirements and rules.
The Wrightstown Board of Supervisors discussed the issue at its March 7 meeting and ultimately decided to recommend to the Jointure that the amendments be adopted. Wrightstown’s Planning Commission previously reviewed the ordinance and also recommended adoption.
Still, Upper Makefield and Newtown Township leaders need to sign off too, Pogonowski noted.
“If all three townships agree on the current version, there would be one more review needed by the Bucks County Planning Commission, after which time the ordinance could be advertised for formal adoption by supervisors in all three townships,” said Pogonowski, noting the process could take several months.

If additional substantial changes are suggested, then the process could take even longer, as the jointure would work on the proposed updates and subsequently recirculate the ordinance for another review by the townships until the final language is agreed upon.
Officials detailed that the changes to local zoning are necessary, in part, to address recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions, which Pogonowski said designated certain wireless communications providers as public utilities, and to conform to changes in state law regarding these uses.
According to Pogonowski, a notable impact of those changes to municipalities is that 5G carriers can now place communication poles (typically 50 feet high, he said) in any right of way.
“For most residents,” he said, “this would mean an attachment to the top of an existing telephone or electric pole. For neighborhoods with underground wiring, this could mean the installation of a new pole along the street.”
The ordinance amendments will attempt to provide reasonable design requirements for these installations, “so as not to become an eyesore,” Pogonowski added.


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