Supervisors in Lehigh Township voiced their opposition to a bill in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that they say “is not in the best interests of Pennsylvania” at their reorganizational meeting on Jan. 2.
The board voted unanimously to pass a resolution opposing House Bill 1620, known as the Wireless Broadband Infrastructure Deployment and Collocation Act. The bill, if enacted, would limit what restrictions and regulations municipalities can impose on wireless facilities and wireless support structures.
The resolution passed by Lehigh Township states that the bill would “strip municipalities of their legal authority to regulate wireless facilities both within and outside the public rights-of-way undermining public safety and the protection of the rights-of-way.”
The township also believes that the bill would force municipalities to cooperate beyond what the federal government already requires and limit the ability of municipalities to collect “reasonable” fees and negotiate on such projects.
Supervisor Cindy Miller said she agreed with the resolution to condemn the bill, believing it to pose serious threats to a municipality’s ability to control their right-of-ways.
“I totally agree with it,” Miller said. We spent time and the money when we created a right-of-way ordinance… which was for a purpose and now we have a state legislator in the House that obviously doesn’t understand the ramifications of this bill being passed into law, of the implications it means for municipalities, where this utility and these small cell towers could literally come in, go right into our right-of-ways, and rip up our roads, can do whatever, and we’re responsible for maintenance of those right-of-ways.
The bill states that municipalities that have adopted zoning ordinances and land use regulations may not implement additional requirements on applicants seeking to implement wireless infrastructure defined in the bill.
The bill’s prime sponsor is state Rep. Nick Miccarelli, R-Delaware County, and if passed into law, municipalities would be banned from doing any of the following:
- Imposing requirements that regulate new wireless facilities
- Imposing requirements that regulate collocations, replacements or modifications on antennas, accessory equipment or wireless facilities on an existing support structure or within an existing equipment compound
- Imposing additional costs, beyond “appropriate and reasonable” permit fees, or operating restrictions on applicants for installation of new wireless facilities or for collocations, replacements or modifications of wireless facilities on existing wireless support structures or within existing compounds
- Requiring zoning permit fee payments to accompany applications for wireless facilities and wireless support structures other than small wireless facilities. These fees would be prohibited if they are in excess of a municipality’s “actual” and “reasonable” costs to review an application, or $1,000, whichever is less
- Requiring zoning permit fee payments to accompany applications for small wireless facilities. These fees would be prohibited if they are in excess of a municipality’s “actual” and “reasonable” costs to review and application, or $100, whichever is less
- Requiring applicants to justify the need for an installation, collocation or modification of wireless facilities, including the radio frequency needs, or requiring information that exceeds what a communications service provider would require from a wireless provider.
- Prohibiting or effectively prohibiting mobile service
- Requiring applicants to justify the need for or technical, business or service characteristics of a proposed wireless facility.
The meeting was the first for new Supervisors Philip Gogel and Michael Jones, both of whom were elected in November 2017. The board will meet twice in January, on Jan. 9 and Jan. 23 at 7 p.m.