Vernon Hills looks to draft cell antenna regulations before state jumps in

Vernon Hills officials are in a race to approve an ordinance regulating light pole-based cell phone antennas before Illinois legislators pass a law expected to be less restrictive next spring.

A contractor representing Verizon Wireless presented concepts for the equipment during a Sept. 19 committee meeting, and though Vernon Hills trustees had many concerns they all agreed that it’s important to pass an ordinance before Illinois lawmakers take up the issue.

“We don’t have any idea what the state legislature is going to do, so we could end up with four or five of these per street,” Mayor Roger Byrne said.

The antennas would be about 30 inches tall and would go atop the 30-foot light poles, according to a village memo. The additional processors could be located in three spots: just below the antenna, midway up the pole or in a large box on the ground.

Mike Howley, a contractor for Verizon, said equipment mounted to towers and tall buildings — referred to as macro sites — often create interference if their coverage areas overlap. The “small cells” have different technology that is able to boost service within coverage areas without causing interference, he said.

“This is not going to replace those facilities,” Howley said. “They will remain the backbone of all wireless carriers’ networks. What small cells are going to do is complement those macro site locations.”

An area near Hawthorn Middle School North was identified as having problematic coverage and designated the first place where Verizon would like to install an antenna on a light pole. Howley said it likely won’t be the last.

“Especially with what we call 5G approaching, municipalities throughout this region are going to have a lot of small cell sites,” Howley said.

Approving a zoning ordinance and master license agreement with Verizon would create regulations that Vernon Hills employees can enforce moving…

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