Revised wireless bill applies only to antennas; local authority for approving cell towers preserved

February 10, 2017

Upon completion of lengthy negotiations with the wireless industry, VACo has agreed to support a substitute to SB 1282 (McDougle) that was approved Thursday afternoon in the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

As originally drafted, the bill would have gutted local land use authority for the siting of new wireless support structures (towers, poles) and forced the use of local government property without adequate compensation. Those provisions have been removed with the result that the substitute bill now only applies to zoning approval for the placement of small cell facilities (i.e. antennas) on existing structures.

In the agreed upon substitute, localities may only require administrative approval of such facilities if the applicant “… has permission from the owner of the structure to co-locate equipment on that structure and notifies the locality in which the permitting process occurs.” Additionally, the locality may deny approval of an application if the placement of the antenna would interfere with existing or planned public safety communications facilities, or conflict with the provisions of locally established historic districts.

The revised bill also prescribes how much a locality can charge to review an application, and how long a locality can take to review a completed application.

As part of the agreement, VACo sent a letter to the patrons of the legislation with a commitment to work with the wireless industry in expanding service to rural areas.

VACo Members – Share your thoughts on FlagPoll.

VACo Contact: Joe Lerch, AICP

Topic Tags: Capitol Contact, Joe Lerch

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