Silver Spring To Review Cell Tower Ordinance

Silver Spring Township is in the first phase of reviewing its wireless communication regulations with an eye toward modernizing the regulations. The township is the fastest growing township in Cumberland County and the fourth fastest-growing township in Pennsylvania. The proliferation of cell phone use and the need for cellular communications, including for emergency response and preparedness, has created an additional need for cellphone towers to transmit information.  Cell phone tower performance is often improved if there are fewer surrounding structures that could create interference, which is why cell towers are often placed in out-of-the way locations, such as ridgelines. Placing towers on ridgelines potentially creates conflicts for Appalachian Trail (A.T.) users who are looking for a more natural hiking experience.  The update to the regulations will help ensure additional preservation to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail’s natural view shed in Silver Spring Township along the Kittatinny Ridge and through the Cumberland Valley.

Through a mini-grant provided by the National Park Service, Silver Spring Township will review its ordinance and those of surrounding townships to fashion an ordinance that is protective of the A.T. experience.  The goal is to create a “buffer” that will prevent cell towers from being constructed near the A.T. and examine current cell towers that could be co-located on existing cell towers. The ordinance will be fully vetted before the public, township planners and supervisors later this summer.  Rettew Consulting firm, with offices in Bethlehem, Lancaster, Mechanicsburg, Pittsburgh, Schuylkill Haven, and Williamsport, PA; and Liberty and Margaretsville, NY, was chosen to perform the ordinance review and draft the ordinance language. Rettew has extensive experience working on communications and other related issues with municipalities, including Silver Spring Township.

“We are very pleased that Silver Spring Township is partnering with The Appalachian Trail Conservancy on this worthwhile effort by ensuring hikers will experience an unadulterated view from the Appalachian Trail to the greatest extent possible.  By taking this action, Silver Spring has demonstrated its concern for users of the Appalachian Trail but it is also looking out for taxpayers by avoiding needless lawsuits that often result from the misdirected and unneeded placement of cell towers when there are other more suitable locations available,” noted Brooks Mountcastle, Environmental Planner with The Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  “In the end, we are confident the regulations and policies that result from this effort will receive support from the Township,” concluded Mountcastle.  The Appalachian Trail skirts the township and is part of the Kittatinny Ridge, a key migratory flyway for tens of thousands of hawks, eagles, falcons, songbirds, hummingbirds, and butterflies annually.  It is especially important to prevent forest fragmentation along the Appalachian Trail because it potentially leads to invasive plant species and threatens native wildlife habitat.

 “Silver Spring Township is excited to collaborate with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, with the assistance from Rettew, to preserve the scenic viewshed of the A.T.,” stated Theresa Eberly, Township Manager.  “Establishing a Zoning Overlay on the A.T. will help to preserve the unique characteristic of the western boundary of the Township.”

This effort is made possible by a mini-grant program that helps local municipalities and partnering non-profit organizations preserve and promote community character, sense of place, and local natural and cultural assets within the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.) Landscape in Pennsylvania.  Eligible projects must be located within counties and municipalities that lie along the A.T.  In 2016, $40,000 in grants will be awarded with a required 20% local match.  Additional funding may be available for exemplary projects.  The application deadline is June 30, 2016 and grantee winners will be notified on September 1, 2016.

Any township or borough abutting the A.T. and wanting to learn more about the mini-grant program, is encouraged to contact Brooks Mountcastle at 717-258-5771 or for more information.  Non-profit organizations that want to work with a municipality on the mini-grant program are also encouraged to apply. To download an application packet, visit ATC’s website.

Funds for the ATC Conservation Assistance Mini-Grant Program come from the National Park Service’s Appalachian Trail Park Office and are provided to the ATC through a cooperative agreement.