Sparks City Council Meeting 4/22/2019 2:00:00 PM

    Monday, April 22, 2019 2:00 PM
    Council Chambers, Legislative Bldg, 745 4th Street, Sparks, NV

General Business: 9.7

Title: FIRST READING of Bill No. 2755, an ordinance amending Section 20.03.046, Wireless communication tower or antenna, of the Sparks Municipal Code, revising one definition and adding a new definition within Section 20.08.002, making administrative changes, adding a new section establishing regulations for small wireless communication facilities located on private property, and providing other matters properly relating thereto.
Petitioner/Presenter: John A. Martini, P.E., Community Services Director/Karen Melby, AICP, Development Services Manager
Recommendation: City Council should instruct the City Clerk to conduct the first reading of the bill by title on April 22, 2019 and thereafter publish notice of a second reading, public hearing and possible approval of this bill on May 13, 2019.
Financial Impact: None
Business Impact (Per NRS 237):
A Business Impact Statement is not required because this is not a rule.
Agenda Item Brief:

The proposed amendments to the City’s zoning code are to Sections 20.03.046 (Wireless communication tower and antenna) and 20.08.002 (Definitions). The proposed changes to Section 20.03.046 are to clarify its provisions, respond to updated Federal Communications Commission requirements regarding macro towers, and add regulations for small wireless facilities installed on private property. The requested changes to Section 20.08.002 (Definitions) revise the existing definition for “Wireless communication tower or antenna” and add a new definition for “small wireless facilities.”


On December 11, 2017, the Sparks City Council adopted Bill No. 2729 amending Sparks Municipal Code (SMC) Title 20 (Zoning Code) to revise certain definitions, permitted uses, and landscaping, density, parking and design standards. While City staff also had City Council direction to address wireless communications facilities, the adopted 2017 amendments did not because more research and discussion with wireless service providers was needed.

This agenda item proposes amendments to Sections 20.03.046 (Wireless communication tower or antenna) and 20.08.002 (Definitions) of the Zoning Code to update the regulations for wireless communication tower facilities and add regulations for the installation and operation of small wireless communication facilities, also referred to as small cells, located on private property.

With the increasing use of cellular phones and mobile devices, the anticipated use of autonomous vehicles, and roll-out of a 5G network, wireless carriers are working to ensure that their networks provide adequate coverage and capacity (“band width”) to serve their customers’ needs. To help address this growing need, wireless carriers are introducing the use of small cell technology. No small cell wireless facilities have been installed in Sparks to date.

Small wireless facilities are low-powered radio access nodes with a signal range of 30 feet to one mile. Compared to cellular towers or “macrocells,” small wireless facilities have a shorter range and typically handle fewer concurrent calls. A typical small wireless facility is 25 to 45 feet in height, while macrocell sites usually employ towers 90 feet or taller. Small cells are typically attached to existing utility, light or traffic poles within the public right-of-way, or on private property, and require an aerial or underground line to access power and fiber to transmit cellular phone and data signals. The use of small wireless facilities is expected to result in fewer macrocell sites being built across the country.

In addition to these amendments to the Zoning Code, the City Council will consider a companion agenda item to address installation of small wireless facilities in public right-of-way through addition of a new section to SMC Title 12 (Public Improvements) and adoption of a Master License Agreement (MLA). The proposed addition of Section 12.42.020 (Small Wireless Facilities) to SMC Title 12 would establish regulations for the siting of small wireless facilities within public right-of-way. In addition, if a MLA is approved by the City Council, each wireless carrier will be required to enter into an agreement for the installation and operation of small wireless facilities in City right-of-way. As a wireless carrier adds sites, their MLA with the City will be amended or supplemented to reflect each unique small cell location. Building permits and any necessary street cut and/or encroachment permits will also be required for the installation of small wireless facilities.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order in late 2018 requiring municipalities to allow for the deployment of small wireless facilities, within certain parameters, limiting fees local governments can charge wireless carriers, and restricting municipalities’ ability to regulate certain aspects of small wireless facilities, including aesthetics. The FCC has denied a request to stay its recent order. While appeals are pending before the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the outcome of those cases is uncertain.

The FCC’s limitations on aesthetic requirements for the deployment of small wireless facilities will take effect on April 15, 2019. Staff is seeking adoption of the changes to Titles 12 and 20 and the Master License Agreement to put aesthetic, engineering and other standards in place for review of applications from wireless carriers to install and operate small wireless facilities in Sparks.

The Planning Commission reviewed these proposed amendments to the Zoning Code on April 4, 2019, and recommended that the City Council adopt the changes to SMC Sections 20.03.046 and 20.08.002.


The proposed amendments to Section 20.03.046 of the Zoning Code are to clarify its provisions, respond to updated FCC requirements regarding macro towers, and add regulations for small wireless facilities installed on private property. The changes may be summarized as follows:

  • Revise the Purpose statement to address small wireless facilities on private property;
  • Add small wireless facilities on private property under Applicability;
  • Add the repair or maintenance of a wireless communication tower or antenna or small wireless facility as an exemption;
  • Add, under General Requirements, a process for review of a modification to existing wireless communication towers and antennas;
  • Clarify the Administrative Review process and regulations, including changes to mirror FCC regulations for City approval deadlines;
  • Modify the tables for separation distances (D.3 Locational Requirements) by adding new titles and measurement definitions;
  • Clarify the conditional use permit process and regulations; and
  • Add a new section F for small wireless facilities located on private property. Each small wireless facility requires a building permit with ‘shot clock’ deadlines as required by the FCC and is subject to aesthetics and placement regulations.

In addition, two definitions will be amended or added in Section 20.08.002 of the Zoning Code. First, the existing definition for “wireless communication tower or antenna,” which defines a wireless communication tower or antenna and references Section 20.03.046, would be revised as follows:

Wireless communication tower or antenna – An antenna, alternative tower structure, and/or tower as defined by constructed and operated pursuant to Section 20.03.113 046, not to include small wireless communications facilities.  This definition is intended to encompass traditional macro wireless communications towers and associated structures, not small wireless facilities also known as small cell structures.

Second, a new definition for small wireless facilities is proposed:

Small wireless facilities – has the meaning ascribed in 47 CFR Section 1.6002(l).

If adopted, the proposed amendments to Section 20.03.046 of the Zoning Code will establish regulations for small wireless facilities located on private property. The adoption of the proposed amendments complies with directives from the FCC and promotes the following Comprehensive Plan goals and policies:

GOAL CC1:         Ensure that Sparks’ physical environment, services and amenities make it a city of choice for residents and businesses.

Goal EV4            Maintain a physical and regulatory environment that facilitates innovation, entrepreneurship, and small business development while providing for long term environmental and fiscal sustainability.            

Goal EV5            Identify and respond to potential economic development opportunities, including emerging industries, which may arise from environmental and regulatory changes.

Policy EV8          Advocate for and support public and private investments in Sparks that improve the quality of life while providing critical services and facilities to retain current residents and attract a skilled workforce.

Use of cellular phones and other mobile devices are a quality of life issue for the citizens of Sparks and are necessary for the operation of most businesses, especially new technology-based businesses starting up or relocating to Sparks. Without quality coverage and network capacity, Sparks may not be a city of choice for either residents or businesses (Goal CC1). To attract and retain businesses, the quality of wireless networks is critical (Goals EV4 and EV5). Wireless carriers are anticipated to invest private capital in Sparks to improve their networks, which should enhance quality of life for citizens and businesses (Policy EV8).

City staff provided draft code amendments to 36 known wireless company representatives and contractors, some of whom have met with staff. The City also received written comments from some of these stakeholders. Their comments are attached to this staff report which, in addition to addressing the proposed changes to the Zoning Code, also pertain to the proposed Section 12.42.020 (Small Wireless Facilities) and the Master License Agreement. The proposed changes to the Zoning Code reflect stakeholder input received by the City prior to Planning Commission consideration to the proposed amendments to the Zoning Code.


This is the first reading of the bill.

Recommended Motion:

This is the first reading of the Bill. No motion is required.

Attached Files:
     03 - Stakeholder comments.pdf
     02 - SMC 20-03-046 & 20.08.002 Wireless communication.1.pdf
     Bill No 2755.pdf
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