Chicago Suburb Tries To Outrace State Pole Legislation

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Last week, a contractor representing Verizon Wireless presented concepts to Vernon Hills officials for light pole-based cell phone antennas, standing 30-inches tall and placed atop 30-foot light poles. The Chicago Tribune reported that local officials are racing to approve the ordinance before the Illinois legislators pass a law expected to be less restrictive next spring.

Concerns center around the number of antennas that might eventually go up. “We don’t have any idea what the state legislature is going to do, so we could end up with four or five of these per street,” Mayor Roger Byrne said. Vernon Hills officials want to mitigate the risk, if possible.

Regarding placement of the small cells, an area near a middle school was identified as the first spot for the new infrastructure to help boost coverage. According to Mike Howley, a contractor for Verizon, “Especially with what we call 5G approaching, municipalities throughout this region are going to have a lot of small cell sites.” 

The Chicago Tribune reported that approving a zoning ordinance and master license agreement with Verizon would create regulations that Vernon Hills employees can enforce moving forward, according to Building Commissioner Mike Atkinson. If approved before Illinois creates its own law, the Vernon Hills policy would be grandfathered in, he said.  

Residents of Vernon Hills voiced their opinions ranging from ensuring the small cells are “unobtrusive,” to limiting the heights of the light poles, to asking whether additional wireless providers will have access to the infrastructure (the answer is yes). Atkinson noted that Verizon’s policy could be written to address all those concerns.

As for next steps, Atkinson speculated that Illinois could approve a bill next spring, but the Vernon Hills policy and Verizon contract should be ready before then, pending a public hearing with the Planning and Zoning Commission.

September 27, 2017              

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