House Panel Guts Local Control Over Zoning

February 2, 2018

The House Commerce and Labor Committee yesterday reported out HB 1258 (Kilgore), which allows wireless companies to place cell towers up to 50 feet tall within rights-of-way without local control. Additionally, for towers of greater height, the bill hamstrings localities’ ability to obtain information and address citizen concerns through the public hearing process.

Supporting the bill with testimony were private industry corporations, such as Verizon, Sprint and AT&T. Shentel also offered testimony in support of the bill saying HB 1258 would assist in the rollout of wireless and broadband services to rural Virginia.

Speaking against the bill, and rebutting claims from the industry, were VACo, VML and local governments. We testified that the bill offers NO guarantee of better access to broadband or wireless services to unserved, underserved and urban / suburban areas of Virginia. VACo also highlighted that this bad bill preempts local control over land use decisions and treats a single for-profit industry like a utility. However, unlike a traditional utility, the wireless industry is not required to provide service to citizens.

Even the Wireless Infrastructure Association disagrees with HB 1258. President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein wrote in a Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial

“Do not let Virginia become a pincushion covered with tower farms. We can meet the wireless needs of Virginia consumers by including them in a smart process of placing wireless facilities where they are needed — and that means with proper planning and input.”

HB 1258 is likely to be voted on early next week on the House floor. VACo Members – if you don’t want a cell tower to be your neighbor, call your Delegate now to oppose this bad bill.

The Senate version is SB 405 (McDougle), which will be heard in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on Monday. We need to express our dissatisfaction to Committee members and tell them to oppose SB 405.

KEY POINTS

  • The bill offers NO guarantee of better access to broadband or wireless services to unserved, underserved and urban / suburban areas of Virginia.
  • The bill allows a wireless structure up to 50 feet in height to be placed within rights-of-way without local control.
  • The bill strips local governing bodies of their ability to act on community concerns on the siting of wireless towers.

DELEGATES VOTING TO GUT LOCAL CONTROL OVER ZONING

Kilgore (Chairman), Byron (Vice Chair), Ware, Hugo, Marshall, Cline, Bell, Robert B., O’Quinn, Yancey, Ransone, Ward, Filler-Corn, Kory, Bagby, Heretick, Mullin, Bourne

VACo Contacts: Dean Lynch, CAE; Joe Lerch, AICP; and Phyllis Errico, Esq., CAE

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