Bucolic Lancaster Shuns Tower Development

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Lancaster, PA Mayor Rick Gray is worried, according to lancasteronline. Gray told his City Council last week that wireless industry operatives plan to strip state municipalities of their power to regulate where cell towers can be located.

Using the Wireless Infrastructure Deployment Act developed by the major carriers, tower companies and trade associations, Gray said, would create a standard for erecting wireless infrastructure in public rights-of-way, and bypass local laws.

“A wireless contractor would be permitted by state law to install 120-foot towers along any roads, including those in residential areas,” Gray said to lancasteronline. “In addition, it would ‘effectively eliminate’ municipalities’ ability to assess fees on installations,” he said. “The wireless industry is well financed and has hired numerous lobbyists to secure passage of this bill,” he said.  

The new statute, S.B. 1345, builds upon the federal co-location/modification provision within the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 by: limiting local review costs; eliminating justifications of RF, technical or business need of a wireless facility; and broadening facilities modifications subject to streamlined review to include water towers, electric transmission towers, utility poles, buildings and other vertical infrastructure. The bill also establishes a statewide shot clock for co-location/modification application review, which includes a “deemed approved” resolution if the application is not acted upon within 90 days.

A draft of the bill has circulated, but it has not yet been introduced in the legislature, said Amy Sturges, director of governmental affairs with the Pennsylvania Municipal League. If its final form resembles the draft, “we will have to oppose it,” she said to lancasteronline.

Telecom companies have accused municipalities of practicing exclusionary zoning, crafting regulations that technically permit towers and antennas while effectively barring them in practice.

Lancaster passed a cell tower ordinance in September. It prohibits wireless transmission equipment on any property deemed historically significant, gives the city control over “time, place and manner” of construction and repair work and requires equipment to “blend with the existing surroundings … to the greatest extent possible,” reported lancasteronline.

It sets height limits, minimum standards for withstanding wind loads and requires companies to show insurance coverage and indemnify the city from any lawsuits related to the company’s equipment installations. If the proposed bill passes, the ordinance would be nullified, city Chief of Staff Pat Brogan told lancasteronline.

January 16, 2017

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