Nevada City OKs ordinance regulating telecommunications |

Nevada City OKs ordinance regulating telecommunications

Marin Lipowitz makes her feelings known about a proposed cell tower outside City Hall in Nevada City, in this September 2016 photo.
Submitted photo

After some wrangling — and finger-pointing — Nevada City’s city council on Wednesday moved ahead with the first reading of an ordinance that will regulate wireless telecommunication facilities in town.

The issue has long been a point of contention for Nevada City, which won a fight against a proposal by Verizon to install a wireless array downtown in 2015. The company filed an appeal, then formally withdrew its application in July 2018.

Verizon subsequently informed Nevada City in a letter it wants to install “small cell facilities” on existing power or telephone poles downtown.

That prompted Vice Mayor Reinette Senum to propose a moratorium while city staff crafted a telecommunications ordinance, which would limit putting small cell facilities on PG&E poles and other utility-company owned structures and set “reasonable” limits on output to protect public health, safety and welfare.

In September, Senum, City Manager Catrina Olson and city-contracted attorney Scott Porter met with Rusty Monroe of Center for Municipal Solutions, a nonprofit organization that assists local municipalities in their dealings with telecommunications service providers and applicants. At the time, Senum told the council the cost of preparing the ordinance could be charged to the telecommunication companies and estimated the city would have to pony up $3,000 to $4,000.

In the interim, the council adopted an urgency ordinance that enacts a temporary moratorium. The city was set to discuss its proposed permanent ordinance in December, but postponed that discussion after receiving a protest letter from Verizon.

Senum asked to table the discussion again on Wednesday, saying that changing regulations from the federal government meant the draft needed to be tweaked further.

Mayor David Parker took issue with the current $19,000 price tag, saying, “This was supposed to be free.”

“I don’t know how we have spent that,” Senum said, before city staff chimed in to explain the increased cost was due to repeated interactions between Scott Porter and Rusty Monroe to make changes to the ordinance.

“We spent money to have something on the table,” council member Duane Strawser said. “Let’s vote on this and then make changes (as needed). We need something in place.”

Senum continued to argue for waiting another two weeks, saying, “We want the best ordinance we can get that will not get us sued.”

After noting the ordinance will come back regardless for a second reading, the council approved the first reading of the ordinance on a 3-1-1 vote with Erin Minett voting no and Senum abstaining.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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