UNION — Ohio House Bill 478 has made certain changes to state statutes concerning the local permitting and placement of small cell facilities and wireless support structures.
Part of the bill allows cities to designate certain areas as strictly for underground or buried utilities to restrict the placement of new utility poles or wireless support structures.
Union City Council adopted two ordinances under emergency status to take effect immediately in order to prepare for and respond to any applications to erect new utility poles or wireless support structures. The city’s legislation restricts placement of such structures in any area of the city where no overhead or above ground utilities, utility facilities, overhead lines or overhead structures currently exist including all right-of-ways within or adjacent to areas zoned for residential use. The restrictions also apply to all areas of the city where planned road projects may take place, redevelopment areas, or economic development areas provide for and require underground buried utilities.
The legislation also includes a provision to restrict placement in all other right-of-ways throughout the city, whether or not above ground utilities currently exist.
“If a cellular wireless operator would want to come into the city and file a permit to install cellular wireless in various subdivisions , this outlines where we say that it has to be buried and where it does not,” said City Manager John Applegate.
Decorative poles are exempt from the law. For 20 years the city has required utilities to be buried in its subdivisions, which feature decorative poles. All the wiring is buried that supplies power to the poles, some of which are in the right-of-way, some outside the right-of-way and some that are located in easements in residents’ rear yards.
In older sections of the city wood utility poles with overhead power connections exist.
“What the state has done, in its great wisdom, is to take where we had total control of our right-of-ways and the control of what goes in and what doesn’t, to say that utility and wireless providers can install poles anywhere in the city by filing an application… but it has to meet our standards,” Applegate said. “If everything is buried, then everything they install has to be buried except for the pole. Decorative poles are exempt, which means there could be some other poles that could go up along our right-of-ways, which I would hate to see happen.”
Applegate said one thing the city might be able to do is to convince utility/wireless providers to use existing light poles that are designed to take heavier loads to withstand wind. The city could also offer to install a newer pole to support additional services. Wireless providers could use existing DP&L poles if they enter into an agreement.
The legislation adopted by the city is required by House Bill 478.
“As this thing goes along we may find that we may have to make some amendments to our ordinance,” Applegate added. “I’m sure there will be some additional lawsuits that come out of it. This is the first step that we need to adopt to outline the areas where utilities have to be buried.”