Wireless bill erodes local decision-making authority for the siting of towers and poles

January 15, 2018

HB 1258 (Kilgore) and SB 405 (McDougle) substantially limit the ability of local-elected officials to determine how wireless infrastructure is incorporated into their communities, and effectively removes citizen input in making decisions on the siting of towers and poles.

VACo Members – Please contact your legislators to OPPOSE HB 1258 (Kilgore) and SB 405 (McDougle).

Talking Points

  • Localities should not be stripped of their ability to determine how wireless towers and poles can be accommodated within their landscape.
  • Restrictions on how much localities can charge for applications will place a fiscal burden on government operations.
  • A “one-size-fits-all” approach is unnecessary. Wireless service providers can, and do, find solutions working with local governments and their citizens for the siting of towers and poles.

Zoning Decisions
Local land use tools allow for zoning decisions to be made based on the best interests of the community. Regarding citizen input, the proposal prohibits a locality from requiring a special exception, special use permit, or variance be obtained for wireless support structures that are 50 feet or less above ground level. Additionally, numerous provisions of the bill would limit local ability to address the visual impact of any wireless tower or pole, regardless of height.

Costs
The measure also limits how much a locality may charge to review applications and adds a burdensome requirement that localities provide “an accounting of the actual costs incurred” to review each application for a new structure.

During the 2017 legislative session, VACo agreed to support legislation (subsequently signed into law) to allow for “by-right” zoning approval for the placement small cell facilities (i.e. antennas) on existing structures. 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. This legislation does not guarantee expansion of service to those areas and instead provides favored status and exemptions for an industry that it is not a public service company.

ACT NOW by sending a resolution to your Delegates and Senators in opposition to these measures, and send a copy to VACo.

VACo Contact: Joe Lerch, AICP

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