Cell phone service may continue to improve in Hinsdale in the future, but village officials have tried to ensure it won't cost the village aesthetically.
The Board of Trustees last week unanimously approved changes to the municipal code that empower the board to review and make recommendations on any new cell phone antenna "nodes" placed on existing infrastructure within residential zoning districts in the village.
Placement of the new nodes, also known as distributed antenna systems (DAS), is a topic that surfaced last October and gave commissioners a heads-up that the systems were being installed around town to improve cell service.
AT&T representative Jim Leahy said at that meeting that his company has historically had bad coverage in Hinsdale, as it typically does in communities that are mostly residential and have little open or industrial space ideal for cell towers.
“With these nodes, it will clear AT&T’s problems and we would be able to provide good service throughout the village,” Leahy said.
Trustees on the Board of Trustees' Zoning and Public Safety (ZPS) Committee had concerns about the village's lack of say in the location of the nodes and have since worked to establish a level of control and regulation.
The additions to the municipal code, which can be found within the Sept. 4 board packet, demand that any new node a provider like AT&T wants to install in a residential or design review overlay district must be mounted on an existing infrastructure poll if possible; must be as concealed as possible; must conform to size and height standards; must not, if at all possible, be located directly in front of a residence; and must be reviewed by the ZPS Committee before installation.
"Upon secondary review," the municipal code now reads, "the Board of Trustees shall consider such recommendation with respect to whether the application conforms to all village requirements for construction of utility facilities in the rights-of-way ... and whether placement of the system at the proposed locations instead of outside of the residential zoning district or design review overlay district, or at any suggested alternative location within the residential zoning district or design overlay district, is necessary for effective technical functioning of the system, and shall then either recommend approval of the application ... or recommend denial."
Trustees do not have power to approve or deny the residential nodes, but make a recommendation on each to the village manager, who has ultimate approval authority.
Providers will be required to pay a $250 application fee for each node that demands board review.
Trustee and ZPS chair Bob Saigh said DAS were not something village officials saw coming in recent years, and the approved language gives the village standing where it didn't before.
"It allows us to work in more detail with a vendor in future cases in which DAS are distributed," Saigh said.
Saigh said the new language will apply to future DAS. Several of those AT&T nodes that inspired the discussion have been installed, including at 800 W. Hinsdale Ave., 330 E. Hickory St., 609 S. County Line Rd., and 602 S. Madison St.