Hillsborough Opposes So-Called “Small” WTFs

Residents of Hillsborough have been protesting plans to build 16 so-called “Small Cell” cellphone towers in their town and it looks like their efforts have paid off. Kiet Do reports. (12/21/17)

See KPIX news coverage here.

Patrick Shannon, an attorney who specializes in government regulation:

The issue is not over. What we really need now is to reform our process of government so that the citizens have a meaningful opportunity to participate in the process. We are going to seek reforms to ensure that that happens.


Verizon has the option to appeal to the full City Council within 15 days.

I spoke to Katharine Leroux, Hillsborough City Manager at Noon on 1/4/18. She confirmed that on 1/4/18 Verizon appealed her decision to the Hillsborough City Council. She posted the Crown Castle Appeal to https://www.hillsborough.net/482/Wireless.

  • Hillsborough City Manager decision letter here
  • Disucssion about Part V of the decision here
  • Transcript from 12/7/17 hearing here

12/7/17 Attorney Patrick Shannon Testimony:

Good evening. I’m Patrick Shannon, the founder of Hillsborough Families Against Cell Towers. Putting Eric’s rather polite comments aside I will tell you that the presentation I heard from staff and Crown Castle was nothing short of Orwellian.

We are not against wireless. We are against monstrosities in front of our homes. That is our point. Keep cell towers away from our homes. The explanation of the process was revisionism but today will be a day of reckoning. Today you will hear from the citizens who are so unfaithfully shut out of the process, as Eric politely described. These people right here are the only ones that stood between Hillsborough becoming a cell tower farm and preserving our local values, despite the very sad fact that the town tried to keep them in the dark about the plan and highly precedential approval of 16 massive cell towers near homes in Hillsborough.

From the time of Verizon’s submission of its application on January 4, 2017, almost a year ago now, to the time of the planned approval, November 16, the town failed its citizens and provided no notice to the Wireless Committee; that is the watchdog and the oversight function of this process. No notice, shut out for eleven and a half months despite their internal guidelines that call for not only review but recommendations from the watchdog committee.

Secondly, no public hearing. None. Despite their internal guidelines that call for not one but two public meetings before any decision by the City Manager. No mention whatsoever of the planned approval on the town’s website. And no notice to hundreds of directly impacted homeowners and neighbors until one week before its planned approval, after being on the drawing board for over five years.

So the lesson is that we have to stand guard by our mailboxes anticipating a one-week time bomb logged in by the City. One week to short circuit Verizon’s scheme to deface our property with 55-foot monstrosities that they now call small. Creating an area that could exceed the federal emissions limits, subjecting us to disturbing noise and decimating our property values and our life savings in the process. That was the plan for November 16, but for the revolt of the citizens of Hillsborough who spontaneously revolted.

Installing massive cell towers near homes and schools in Hillsborough is a stark and obvious violation of law. It would egregiously violate Hillsborough’s own laws, our essential rural character, our local values, aesthetics, the public use of right of ways under state law in the least intrusive means under federal law. For starters you don’t have to look very far. Just look at our own municipal ordinance. All of the 16 huge cell towers are anathema to Hillsborough overall.

Subsection (10) requires: “Any wireless project to preserve the essential rural character of the town.” Do we really need to tell you that 50-foot size industrial towers are fundamentally incompatible with rural living? All 16 towers violate the location standards. Subsection (70) states that the highest preference for locating towers is on public property and the lowest priority of the four is in the rights of way. But all of the 16 towers are proposed for the rights of way. The project is exactly the reverse of what the law requires. It’s upside down. All 16 towers violate the compliance standards.

Subsection (120) requires compliance with Hillsborough’s undergrounding rules. Our existing policy requires new development to be underground yet we have 55-foot towers, we have equipment 17 feet in the air and we have ground equipment. All 16 towers violate the design standards in the following ways:

  • six towers violate the height limits. Subsection (70)(g) prohibits approval of towers taller than 35 feet or more than 10 feet taller than existing poles.
  • Five proposed towers violate the code as they be 55 feet and 16 feet taller. One proposed new tower is 45 feet.
  • Almost all towers violate the camouflage rule. Subsection (70)(g) requires towers to be camouflaged and blended in to mimic the natural surroundings around them. In most cases these are standalone towers that are totally unobstructed.
  • The project is inconsistent with the setback rules that prohibit the placement of any structure over 8 feet within 40 feet of a residence without the homeowner’s approval. A number of proposed towers are within 40 feet, including 1455 Marlborough and 2795 Churchill and the situation will only get worse over time.

While the towers are 55 feet now, Federal law allows a unilateral extension by at least 10 feet, so we’re talking 65 foot towers with a 32 foot height limit on the homes over which they loom. Twice the size. To the council and the City Manager, all you have to do to avoid this calamity is enforce your own laws.

To approve massive cell towers near homes would throw Hillsborough’s municipal code into question. It would shred all of our local protections and you would set a precedent for all of the other 26 national carriers to roll in here and for each of them to install 16 towers of their own.

Enforce your ordinance or you will be advocating your sworn constitutional duty to the citizens of Hillsborough and you’ll be called to account because we are not going away. Enforce your ordinance, deny the project, do the right thing, protect your citizens.

Avoid Hillsborough from becoming the place where democracy goes to die and cell towers metastasize. In closing, on behalf of the one thousand citizens who have signed a petition urging you to deny this project, I give you a copy of our petition asking you, urging you, in fact, demanding, that you deny this project and start over and reform our process so the citizens are given an opportunity for meaningful contribution to the public debate. Thank you very much.