PIQUA — As the result of a litigation against the state a year go by the city of Piqua and many other municipalities over regulations for small cell towers and facilities, the Piqua Planning Commission discussed a set of standards regarding those structures during their meeting Tuesday evening.
“What you’re looking at is the result of litigation between 90-some municipalities across the state of Ohio,” City Planner Chris Schmiesing said.
Small cell facilities and wireless support structures refer to structures like poles or small towers with antennas on top needed to broadcast the next generation of wireless technology, such as 5G technology.
Schmiesing explained that the litigation ”resulted from some legislation that was passed as part of a lame duck session over a year ago when the telecom industry asked for and successfully inserted some provisions in a bill that would have effectively allowed them to put small cell wireless structures and facilities anywhere in the right-of-way in any shape, form, or fashion they desired with very little regulation from localities.”
The litigation led to approximately four months of discussions and negotiations between representatives of municipalities and the telecommunications industry on what legislation regarding small cell structures locating within the public right-of-way should include, Schmiesing said. Those discussions resulted in new legislation coming before the state legislature.
Prior to the state adopting that new legislation for small cell structures, Schmiesing recommended that the city adopt a template of standards for small cell structures, which the city received from the Miami Valley Communications Council. The standards allow the city to regulate appearance and suggest alternative locations for small cell structures.
“Time is of the essence,” Schmiesing emphasized, as it is necessary for the city to adopt these standards before the state passes its new legislation in order for the standards to remain in effect after new state legislation is passed.
The template of standards for the small cell structures has been localized to city standards of appearance. According to those standards, they must be uniform in appearance, which generally will be a pole or tower with an antenna on top and a black box on the side, as any equipment in addition to the antenna must be contained in an enclosure. The antenna and associated equipment cannot exceed six cubic feet in volume.
The support structures — e.g., the poles or towers supporting the antenna and other equipment — cannot be higher than 40 feet, must be made of aluminum poles, and must be black anodized. All portions of the small cell facility other than an antenna cannot exceed 28 cubic feet in volume per facility.
If they are located within a historic district where there are no overheard wires, then the small cell structures also cannot have any overheard wires. In those instances, those structures must connect to the power system underground.
The standards also have to be non-discriminatory toward small cell towers as the telecommunications companies want their structures to be treated like other basic utilities, like water and electricity.
The small cell structures must also be actively in use or the city can have them removed at the owner’s expense.The city can request proof that the structure is active and in use.
Planning Commission member Jim Oda asked questions in regard to where the structures can be located. Schmiesing said that the city can recommend alternative locations, but they cannot outright prohibit a small cell structure from locating in an area in the public right-of-way.
The standards for the small cell structures will also have spacing regulations that require that they not be nearer to each other than every 600 feet.
The small cell structures can also be located on a municipal-owned pole, and the owner will pay a yearly fee of $200 to the city.
“We’re doing as much as we can with the leeway that we have,” Schmiesing said.
The planning commission recommended adopting those standards regulating the installation of small cell facilities and wireless support structures within the city of Piqua, which will go before the Piqua City Commission.
Also during their meeting, the planning commission recommended a zoning designation change of for the property located at 1435 Covington Ave., the residential structure located between the future Speedy Cafe currently under construction to the west and the Woodgate Apartments to the east. The planning commission recommended that the zoning designation for that property be changed from residential to general business at the owner’s request.
“The owner recognizes that there could be a market opportunity for them,” Schmiesing said.
There are no current business ventures planned for the property.
Both of these items will go before the Piqua City Commission for final approval.
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