Cell tower bill could take away local control
Jan 26, 2013 (The Union-Recorder - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The Baldwin County Commissioners learned about cell tower legislation backed by all the major wireless carriers this week.
The Association County Commissioners of Georgia alerted county governments across the state to the proposed bill that would essentially erase current local review procedure.
"Anything that they send you that tells you it preempts local governments, that means they are trying to take authority and power away from y'all," county attorney David McRee said Wednesday. "This will eliminate your ability to regulate them and their tower usage and locations at the local level."
If passed in legislative session, the Mobile Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act of 2013 would further preempt local governments from subjecting tower and structure modifications to local review, among other points.
McRee said the bill is up in Atlanta but hasn't been introduced. State Rep. Rusty Kidd confirmed Friday that he has not seen it yet.
The bill applies a "shot clock" for applications on collocating tower equipment at 90 days and erecting new towers at 150 days. Based on the language, a given application forces the county's hand because failure to act means automatic approval.
It also mandates that local government shall not regulate work of any wireless facility or support structure on any existing or replacement utility poles in the public right of way.
The bill says local governments can't force applicants to consider placing new equipment on county property like water tanks or charge any fees in excess of current market rates for that property's use. If the two sides can't agree on the rates, binding arbitration kicks in to settle the dispute.
The BILD Act is supported by Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint Wireless providers.
Commission Chair Sammy Hall, District 3, said it would ultimately result in less revenue for the county if passed. Hall suggested the board write an opposition letter to the local delegation.
"I think one of the things we really need to do is stay on top of all legislation as much as we can," Hall said. "When the legislature is in session none of us are safe. We don't have much authority as it is, and we don't need for them to take any more."
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