The Massachusetts Municipal Association issued an alert this afternoon about the cell industry’s bill that they got through the House (Rep. Garlick reports that she was not even aware it was in the bill), but which was rebuffed by the Senate, and whose fate now therefore depends on a conference committee.
Bottom line would be cell towers anywhere, without any local town controls, if it becomes law.
July 2, 2014
LOCAL ZONING THREATENED BY WIRELESS TELECOM INDUSTRY PROVISION IN HOUSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BILL
HOUSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BILL WOULD STRIP CITIES & TOWNS OF CONTROL OVER WIRELESS FACILITIES
SENATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BILL DOES NOT CONTAIN THE TELECOM PROPOSAL TO REMOVE LOCAL CONTROL
A House-Senate Conference Committee Will Now Decide Whether the Provisions to Weaken Local Siting Authority Will Remain in the Final Version of the Legislature’s Economic Development Bill
The FCC Will Issue Nationwide Siting Standards for Wireless Antennas Later this Year, and the Legislature Should Not Act until the FCC Finishes Its Process
PLEASE CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES TODAY TO OPPOSE THE HOUSE-PASSED LANGUAGE TO GIVE TELECOM COMPANIES CONTROL OVER LOCAL SITING
The telecommunications industry is pushing legislation to pre-empt virtually all municipal zoning or control over the siting of wireless antennas and equipment in Massachusetts.
These powerful companies have attached legislation to the House version of the Legislature’s economic development bill that would allow them to place wireless antennas and equipment on nearly any building or structure in any location in any community, and override all zoning and any local provision or condition to protect neighborhoods and the public from unsightly and intrusive antennas.
Please Call Your Representatives Today to Stop This Effort to Trample Municipal Control.
On June 11, by a voice vote, House members attached this industry-written language to the House’s economic development bill (Sections 74 and 75 of H. 4181), which was passed by the House of Representatives. The Senate passed its version of the economic development bill on July 1, and did NOT include any language regarding the siting of wireless antennas. House and Senate leaders will now negotiate over the issue in a special conference committee to develop the final compromise bill.
Local officials must call their Representatives immediately and ask for their commitment to OPPOSE any legislation, including the economic development bill, that weakens municipal oversight and authority regarding wireless antennas and equipment.
The Telecom Industry Bill Would Override All Local Decision-Making
Sections 74 and 75 in H. 4181, the House economic development bill would allow telecommunications companies to “collocate” unlimited new antennas and equipment on any and all existing buildings and structures, regardless of the impact on neighborhoods or interference with public rights-of-ways.
The language would allow all wireless telecommunications companies to install or upgrade wireless antennas and equipment on nearly any building or structure in Massachusetts. These structures could include commercial or residential buildings, water towers, cell towers and even homes – with NO effective local government authority to regulate. The telecom companies could ignore all municipal zoning provisions, ordinances and bylaws – including height limits, set-back requirements, or the ability to require aesthetic modifications to ensure the antennas and equipment blend in.
Municipalities would also have no recourse to ensure that unused or abandoned facilities must be removed in the future. The wireless telecommunications provider would only need to comply with the state building code, which is a very low technical standard.
The measure envisions no role for the general public, and fails to recognize that citizens have a right to basic zoning protections that guarantee accountability on the part of developers.
Under this proposal, in order to obtain a “collocation” permit, a mobile broadband provider would merely need to submit an application to the appropriate issuing authority in a municipality, and the city or town would have only 90 calendar days to review and act upon the “collocation” application, and could only reject applications that fail to meet the state building code. Under the language of the bill, telecom companies could start the “90 day shot-clock” by submitting incomplete applications, and have up to 45 days to complete their submissions, leaving cities and towns only 45 days to review a completed application. If a municipality does not complete its review 90 days from the start of the “shot clock,” applicants could immediately go to court to compel the issuance of a license, short-circuiting the local process. This irresponsible provision would in no way benefit the community.
The cities and towns of the Commonwealth support expanding and upgrading wireless telecommunications services throughout the state for the benefit of consumers, but the expansion simply cannot come at the expense of the quality of life for residents.
Specific provisions of the telecom provisions include:
• No zoning ordinance or bylaw shall prohibit, regulate or restrict collocation of wireless facilities on existing structures in any way inconsistent with the industry legislation;
• The issuing authority of a city or town must grant approval of all applications for the “collocation” of wireless antennas and equipment on any existing building or structure (except utility poles), as long as the application complies with the state building code;
• Cities and towns must also approve all applications to expand existing stand-alone cell towers (including monopoles), unless the proposals would increase the height or width of the tower by 10 percent or 20 feet (whichever is more) – which means that the industry could take camouflaged antennas inside a monopole and attach a 20-foot wide antenna, and go up 20 feet, and communities would have no say;
• The issuing authority has only 90 days to approve the application – if cities and towns take longer than 90 days, then the telecom companies could immediately go to court, with approval virtually assured because the court’s only standard would be compliance with the state building code, and NO local bylaws, ordinances or zoning provisions would be allowed;
• Local historic commissions would be omitted from the process, and communities could be forced to approve applications to locate antennas and equipment on buildings in local historic districts – and proposals for siting antennas on buildings listed on the state or federal register of historic buildings would be approved if the state historic preservation officer (not the locality) agrees;
• Communities could NOT require companies to remove obsolete, abandoned or unused antennas and equipment; and
• Communities could not require a higher fee for reviewing an application than for other types of commercial applications, and fees for technical consulting would be capped at $1,000.
The FCC is Promulgating National Standards on Wireless Antenna Siting – But the Telecomm Industry is Working Feverishly to Win More Favorable Rules in Massachusetts
In 2012, Congress and the President enacted “The Spectrum Act” that will implement a nation-wide uniform process for the collocation of wireless antennas and equipment. At this moment, the FCC is promulgating final regulations that will govern the build-out of the wireless telecommunications network, and it is expected that the FCC will give industry its often-stated top goal of a time-limited expedited application process. The FCC’s rules are expected by September 2014.
Why is the telecom industry jumping to Massachusetts and other states to win a complete override of local zoning, when the FCC is on the verge of issuing its decision? The answer is clear: the FCC may give deference to local zoning rules, and allow cities and towns to act in the public interest. In particular, the FCC could allow municipalities to have zoning provisions, ordinances and bylaws on height limits, set-back requirements, or the ability to require aesthetic modifications to ensure the antennas and equipment blend in.
Ask your Representatives and Senators to reject this fast-track attempt by the wireless industry to ignore the FCC process. The Legislature should wait until the federal government issues its final rules later this year.
PLEASE CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES TODAY AND ASK THEM TO OPPOSE ANY ATTEMPT TO PREEMPT LOCAL AUTHORITY FOR SITING WIRELESS ANTENNAS IN THE FINAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BILL. THE LEGISLATURE SHOULD WAIT UNTIL THE FCC MAKES ITS FINAL RULING ON NATIONAL STANDARDS.
After you call your Representatives, please call your Senators to thank them for omitting the wireless provisions from the Senate’s economic development bill, and ask them to oppose S. 2183, a stand-alone bill that is in the Senate Ways and Means Committee that is identical to the House amendment – ask for their commitment to stop this attempt by the telecom industry to build whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want.