Cities & towns want to know if they can decide where these towers should go.
Annapolis, Md (KM). Legislation to clarify the authority local governments have in deciding where to place cell towers could come before the 2018 General Assembly. The Maryland Municipal League says this is one of its priorities for the legislative session.
Ryan Spiegel, the Chairman of the MML’s Legislative Committee, says federal law already gives cities and towns the power to site these towers and antennas, but not in every case.
He also says these are not the large cell towers which are located miles apart from each other, but newer ones which are the size of a utility pole, and are located much closer to each other.
“What we’re looking for is legislation that’s clarifies and strengthens the authority to review and authorize the siting of this infrastructure,” says Spiegel. “Whether it’s the placement of a box on a utility pole, or whether it’s the placement of a new pole with a box on top of it. If it’s in the city or town’s right of way, we should have the ability to reasonably regulate that.”
For some neighborhoods, there could be a problem. “This is a particular problem for a newer neighborhoods that have all of their other utilities under grounded. And now all of sudden, the industry wants to come in and put poles up in the right of way in front of peoples’ houses in those types of neighborhoods,” says Spiegel.
The MML also wants to protect its authority to impose a fee for permit review, and charge rent for the use of the right of way.
With the popularity of i-phones and other similar devices, Spiegel says any new law should not restrict the ability of the cell phone industry to grow. “We’re not trying to prevent the expansion of data services. We’re simply trying to reasonably regulate it to make sure poles don’t start popping up all over the place without some reasonable authority to say ‘hey, don’t put the pole in the middle of the street. Put it at an intersection,'” he says.
The other MML priorities for the 2018 Legislative Session include the restoration of highway user fund revenues, and changes to the Maryland Public Information Act to prohibit the release of citizen e-mails when cities and towns receive public information act requests, especially if citizens sign up for local emergency alerts or municipal newsletters.
The General Assembly convenes on Wednesday, Jan. 10th, 2018.
By Kevin McManus