Rural areas are often underserved when it comes to wireless broadband connectivity. MM&C client, Arcola Towers, was looking for agricultural property owners on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to serve as lessors for new cell towers. They found a willing property owner in Worcester County at the Kurtz Family Farm.
Worcester County zoning regulations did not allow placement of wireless telecommunications facilities within 1,000 feet of a house. Additionally, the law did not allow any the Board of Zoning Appeals to grant any waivers or variances. MM&C zoning and telecommunications attorney Sean Hughes worked closely with his client Arcola Towers, along with the wireless anchor tenant for the location, the Kurtz Family, and Worcester County planning staff to submit a Zoning Text Amendment to alter the law.
In June 2022, the Worcester County Commissioners in a 5-2 favorable vote, allowed the county law to be amended to allow the placement of wireless facilities to within 500 feet in agriculturally zoned properties if a special exception is granted. While a specific situation prompted the ability to grant a more generous variance to the Kurtz family and Arcola, the ability to grant a special exception extends to the entire county where the new law’s criteria can be met.
“There is a need in a lot of rural areas…for better cell phone coverage,” said Commissioner Josh Nordstrom. “I believe this is the right thing to do here because it gives us more flexibility and again, the board of zoning appeals will have the option of looking at this on a case-by-case basis,” he added.
James Kurtz noted that his family and Arcola Towers have struggled to find a site within the property that will address coverage needs without disturbing agricultural operations. “In our area of Public Landing we have such poor, poor service,” said Kurtz. “This tower is not just about us; it would benefit our community greatly.”
Kristen Stelzer, Development Director for Arcola Towers, called the ruling by the Worcester County Commissioners, “An excellent compromise.”
The next step is for Arcola to file the special exception for a cell tower on the Kurtz farm and go to a public hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals. At the hearing Mr. Hughes and Arcola will need to prove that the special exception criteria are met and that it should be approved. If the special exception is approved state of the art wireless broadband services will be provided to this currently underserved area of the County for essential, non- essential and emergency communications.
Read more from Inside Towers.
How MM&C Telecommunications Land Use Attorneys Can Help
The telecommunications land use attorneys at Miller, Miller & Canby are experienced in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia assisting cell tower companies, wireless carriers, and property owners in processing conditional use applications and other land use/zoning entitlement applications relating to the FCC order as well as State and local governments small cell legislation.
Sean P. Hughes is an attorney in Miller, Miller & Canby’s Land Use practice group. His career spans more than two decades of focus in zoning and wireless telecommunications and he has represented clients in land use and zoning matters throughout Metropolitan Washington, D.C. To learn more about the firm’s Telecommunications practice, click here.