Kansas Passes Wireless State Law, Prairie Village City Council Worries

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UPDATE Now that a new state law passed earlier this year by the Kansas Legislature, allowing companies to install towers and equipment along city streets, the Prairie Village City Council is left wondering how far telcos will go.

The council met this week, according to the Kansas City Star, and discussed the city’s ordinance restrictions regarding where companies locate wireless structures on right-of-ways. Due to the new state law, the ordinance’s restrictions had to be lifted, but council members were worried that a wireless company “could conceivably build an 80-foot cell tower or a bulky utility cabinet anywhere it wants, with residents having little ability to object,” the Star reported.

The new law also will make it harder for local governments to interfere with the siting of telecommunications infrastructure. Lawmakers shared that the law will help increase consumers’ access to broadband and boost technology that will help the state’s economy. 

Additionally, cities can’t require wireless companies to prove a business need for potential new equipment. They also can’t evaluate applications “based on other potential sites being available or require multiple companies’ equipment to share space at the same location.” Lastly, cities are restricted on their say about what equipment looks like. 

Councilwoman Courtney McFadden works with AT&T and abstained from voting during Monday’s meeting. She told the Star that carriers don’t want to build towers in people’s yards, that the new law instead focuses on small cells that can be added to existing structures. She said that there are good things about the new legislation.

The Star reported that the council also revised two conditions to Prairie Village’s right-of-way ordinance:

  • Wireless carriers could add antennas and other equipment to an existing streetlight or other structure, but all other newly added equipment, such as utility boxes, would need to be located underground to be out of sight.
  • Boxes could be built above ground if they were small enough to be generally allowed under subdivision regulations. Owners of larger boxes, however, would either build underground or request a special permit from the city planning commission.

The council may change more, depending on what others cities do with their ordinances. City Attorney Catherine Logan asked during the meeting that the council look at more changes to utility boxes because the law went into effect October 1. She said, according to the Star, if a company submits an application for building in the right-of-way, the council would have little control over what happens.

The current ordinance changes go into effect October 11.

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