Township council grants final approval to telecomm ordinance

Compromise reached between municipal and carrier needs.

Following a delay of four months and a reintroduction at its previous public session, Cherry Hill Township council on July 26 granted final approval to an ordinance that sets forth guidelines for installing wireless telecommunications equipment on municipal rights-of-way. 

Originally introduced and approved on first reading on March 22, action on the ordinance was continuously delayed as township administrators revisited the issue to work out some finer points of language in the legislation and to further confer with carriers on their particular objections. 

As Council President David Fleisher mentioned at previous meetings, a significant portion of laws governing signal boosting telecommunications apparati are federal, with some state regulation. At the local level, there is limited ability to regulate wireless carriers, but more leeway to regulate the manner in which small-cell carriers install their equipment. 

Federal law allows those carriers to install their instruments on public property, including utility poles. While the township can’t prevent that, it can enact legislation to control their appearance. 

Natalie Shafiroff, township supervisor of community development, said on July 12 that the township “met the providers halfway.”

In commercial zones, maximum pole height was increased to 50 feet, while poles in residential zones were restricted to 35 feet. Any new poles erected for this purpose would need to be “stealth” infrastructure to meet the township’s aesthetic standards.

The new ordinance also includes specific restrictions on how close facilities can be to each other: at least 250 feet apart, which would preclude any carrier from placing two poles in close proximity. 

In addition, new poles cannot be placed in front of any residence; rather, new installations must be situated between two houses or on a corner where no house is located, according to Shafiroff.

Council also passed an ordinance on second reading to amend an existing zoning code regarding businesses within the B4 business zone. Passage will allow for drive-through restaurants to be open in that area, the majority of which is located in the northwestern portion of the township within and adjacent to the old Garden State Park.  

“This ordinance would remove all prohibitions of drive-through restaurants, and/or eating establishments from the regional B4 zone, and adds counter-service windows and drive-through restaurants as a permitted accessory use within,” explained Fleisher. 

“This was sent to the planning board for their research and analysis, came back to us recommending it, and in today’s world and economy, drive-throughs seem like more of a way of life now.”

The legislation was slated to be voted on at the council’s previous public session, but was postponed.

In other news

  • Council issued a pair of proclamations: one in honor of three members of the Cherry Hill Fire Department who traveled to south Florida for two weeks to provide assistance in the recovery effort following the Surfside condominium collapse, and another to resident Nick Procopio for heroic actions taken on May 29 in saving his neighbors from a fire that broke out in their home.
  • The governing body approved a pair of resolutions to award contracts for both the electrical improvements to the Woodcrest pumping station as well as for the 2021 Handy Helper Program. The former went to Scalfo Electric Inc. of Vineland for an amount not to exceed $61,400; the latter went to All About Painting & Handiwork of Merchantville for an amount not to exceed $100,000. 
  • Fleisher revealed that the 2021 municipal budget would be introduced at a rescheduled open public meeting on Aug. 16.