Cellphone Tower Bill Draws Concern From Municipal Group - The Missourian: State News

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Cellphone Tower Bill Draws Concern From Municipal Group

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Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014 12:00 pm

Legislation dealing with oversight of cellular phone towers has drawn opposition from the Missouri Municipal League.

The bill weakens the ability of local cities to enforce land-use and zoning regulations, the organization stated in a news release.

The House and Senate each have versions of the bill.

State Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, said the legislation is not an attempt to run “roughshod” over communities. Cities are worried about losing local control over cellphone towers, he said.

But Schatz said the bill is simply designed to prevent cities from putting phone companies through a lengthy and costly permitting process for maintenance issues. It is an attempt to establish parameters so cities and cellular phone companies can work together, he added.

This way cities won’t charge wireless providers excessive fees and hold them hostage in the permitting process for tower work, Schatz said. Not all cities do that, he added.

The bill does not allow the companies to place cell towers in areas where local planning and zoning rules do not allow them, Schatz said.

The Missouri Municipal League issued a news release that says the Senate bill would diminish local government oversight of cellular phone towers.

“The bill allows a cellphone provider to replace or upgrade equipment used to provide wireless telecommunications services on or in existing structures with no local government zoning review or even a public hearing,” the news release states. “The bill also would allow wireless equipment to collocate on existing facilities – again, without any oversight allowed from local officials or residents. The placement of structures could include towers, buildings, water towers or even homes.”

The Uniform Wireless Communications Infrastructure Deployment Act is intended to streamline the deployment of broadband facilities to create a strong wireless communication network in Missouri, the bill states.

Under House Bill 1454, local authorities should not evaluate a service provider’s business decisions or evaluate an application based on the availability of other potential locations for infrastructure. However, in respect to new wireless facilities, service providers could be required to state in their application that they studied opportunities to collocate on existing facilities.

The bill also provides time lines that local authorities must meet to review applications for new wireless facilities, substantial modifications or collocations.

It says the authority must review the application within 120 days of receiving it for a new wireless facility, within 90 days for a substantial modification and 45 days for collocations.

Schatz said the legislation already passed last year but is being challenged in court over technical issues in the bill. He said he supported the bill last year.

He noted that there were five components to the bill last year. He said the court challenge deals with an argument that a bill should only have one subject matter. To deal with the issue, he said the Legislature is attempting to break out the separate components of last year’s bill into their own bills.

State Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, said he has not received any calls about the bill this year from the three municipalities he represents.

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