The 2018 Virginia General Assembly adopted new zoning for wireless communications infrastructure legislation (legislation), which became effective on July 1, 2018. The legislation defines an administrative review-eligible project (AREP) as the installation or construction of a new structure that is not more than 50 feet in height and meets other applicable criteria or the co-location on any existing structures of a wireless facility that is not a small cell facility. The legislation prohibits localities from requiring special exception approval for AREPs, but allows localities to require the issuance of zoning permits for such projects.
On September 26, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission issued a Declaratory Ruling and Order (FCC Ruling) regarding small wireless facilities. The FCC Ruling became effective on January 14, 2019, except that it gave localities until April 15, 2019, to adopt aesthetic requirements and certain other regulations on small wireless facilities.
The current Zoning Ordinance requires special exception approval for all new structures and for co-locations that do not meet Sect. 2-514 of the Zoning Ordinance and, to the extent they conflict with the new legislation and FCC Ruling, those provisions have been superseded.
The proposed Zoning Ordinance amendment is in response to the legislation and FCC Ruling and would revise the Zoning Ordinance to permit Zoning Administrator approval of AREPs, to incorporate new fees and definitions, delete outdated provisions, and to include other changes to accommodate these proposed changes. An accompanying amendment to the Mobile and Land-Based Telecommunication Services section of the Public Facilities element of the Comprehensive Policy Plan is also being proposed.
Like the proposed Zoning Ordinance amendment, the proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment aligns the Policy Plan with recent preemptory state legislation and federal rulemaking. A table summarizes the advertised options and staff recommendations for both the Policy Plan and Zoning Ordinance Amendments.