Small Cell Laws In Arkansas Limited to Focusing On Aesthetics

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Last week, the Hot Springs, AR Board of Directors adopted an ordinance regarding small cell aesthetics, including waiving the 30-day period before local legislation becomes law. Although small cells have been popping up in Hot Springs for the past three years, they have been few and far between. Now, inquiries and applications have increased, prompting the board to define requirements, reported The Sentinel-Record. 

With FCC regulations and the state’s Small Wireless Facility Deployment Act of 2019 already in place, the town is focusing on what it can control, which is aesthetics, according to City Attorney Brian Albright. “We have a preemption from the FCC and state law,” said Albright. “The home rule doesn’t apply for us. We have to do what the state said we can do. The aesthetics is about the only thing we can control.”

The 2019 state law exempts the installation, co-location, maintenance, modification, operation, and replacement of small cell facilities from zoning review or approval. Local governments can also deny an application, but can’t prohibit wireless service, reported The Sentinel-Record. 

The recent ordinance requires underground installation of communication and electric lines and prohibits above-ground installation within 300 feet of existing small cell infrastructure. In residential zones, municipalities can suggest alternate locations within 100 feet of the applicant’s proposed site, provided it doesn’t impose technical limits or significant additional costs.

Also, special rules apply to historic districts. “If it’s in a historic district, it’s going to have to get Historic District Commission approval,” according to Planning and Development Director Kathy Sellman.

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