Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Planning Commission

May 10, 2007

Staff Lead:



Kimberley Johnson, Zoning Administrator


Community Development



A Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment to Section 11-102 to Allow Construction of Stealth Silos to House Telecommunication Facilities

Topic Description:


In the past, the Zoning Administrator has construed the Zoning Ordinance to allow, by right, eighty foot (80) high silos to house telecommunication facilities when such silos are part of a farm complex. It is not clear that this construction is appropriate. The purpose of this amendment is to subject past administrative policy to the legislative process to make clear whether past practice is warranted.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

Conduct a public hearing and consider adoption of the attached Ordinance.  

Financial Impact Analysis:

No financial impact analysis has been conducted.


Summary Staff Report:

This text amendment is intended to add clarity to the Zoning Ordinance. As noted above, in the past the Zoning Administrator has construed the Zoning Ordinance to allow eighty feet high silos, by right, to house telecommunication facilities when such silos are part of a farm complex. While there is a presumption of validity to a course of interpretations by the Zoning Administrator, there is uncertainty in this particular instance.  Staff believes that the policy should be codified or rejected so as to clarify the rules concerning telecommunication towers camouflaged as silos.

The regulations pertaining to telecommunications towers are set forth in Article 11 of the Zoning Ordinance.  These regulations generally allow telecommunication facilities without approval of a special exception if they are 80 feet in height or lower, subject to certain specific siting requirements set forth in Section 11-102(2)(b) of the Ordinance.    These regulations allow by-right commercial wireless facilities 80 feet or less in height on sites where they are either surrounded by 100 feet of wooded area or on existing buildings and structures.  A new silo built for telecommunications purposes does not meet these standards unless it is surrounded by 100 feet of wooded area, which would rarely be the case due to historic and existing farm operations.   A telecommunication facility also could be placed in an existing silo. 

The presented question is whether a stealth silo can be constructed solely for such purposes without the wooded buffer. When such a new silo with internal telecommunications equipment is integrated into an existing farm complex consistent with the dimensions and aesthetics of silos in the farming community, this approach has similar impacts to utilizing existing buildings for telecommunications. 

The proposed amendment authorizes up to two stealth silos per site.  Additional on-site stealth silos would require a special exception. 

Today, there are six silos used for telecommunication purposes in the County. Attached for your information are photographs of these silos and numerous additional pictures of silos in the County.

This proposed amendment was initiated by the Planning Commission on January 25, 2007. On February 15, 2007, the Planning Commission conducted a public hearing and asked staff to rewrite the text language authorizing two stealth silos by right and permitting additional stealth silos by special exception.

The Planning Commission recommended adoption of the amendment, by unanimous vote, on March 29, 2007.


Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Department of Economic Development


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