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The Voice of the

Commonwealth's Counties

Revised wireless bill passes; local authority for approving cell towers is preserved

SB 1282 (McDougle) has passed both chambers and now must be acted upon by the Governor by March 27. After lengthy negotiations with the wireless industry, VACo has agreed to support the revised bill. 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.

The effect of the legislation is that localities would only be permitted to 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.

VACo Contact: Joe Lerch, AICP

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