ELMHURST – The city of Elmhurst is on its way toward urging Gov. Bruce Rauner to veto an Illinois Senate bill that would limit the ability of cities with fewer than 1 million people to regulate the placement of wireless antennas in the public right of way.
Elmhurst’s Public Affairs and Safety Committee unanimously advanced a resolution Nov. 27 urging the governor to veto Illinois Senate Bill 1451, the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act, which has 12 sponsors including state Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard.
According to the resolution, the act limits cities’ ability to regulate, site or charge permit fees for wireless facilities and allows a private business to use the public right of way “at a rate far below market value, distorting the private market for small wireless facilities.”
City Manager Jim Grabowski addressed the committee about the resolution and the bill. He said wireless carriers have wanted to add antennas instead of large cell towers in high-density areas.
“Rather than go community by community to make these agreements, the industry went to the legislature and said, ‘We need control over this,’” he said. “In our opinion, it’s a very bad bill because it basically gives them the right to come into our right of way, put up these antennas just about wherever they want including the equipment, and the control from the municipality and also the revenue from it are very minimal.”
The bill allows wireless providers to place telecommunications equipment with an antenna up to 6 cubic feet in size and related equipment up to 28 cubic feet in size on existing or new utility poles. The bill states that total application fees, where permitted, cannot be more than either the amount charged by the municipality for a building permit for any similar commercial construction, activity or land use development, or $350 for each small wireless facility in the application. Annual rates for positioning a small wireless facility would be up to $200 or “the actual, direct, and reasonable costs” related to using the space, according to the bill.
In contrast, two of the agreements the city is working on with telecommunications companies involving the placement of cellular installations in the right of way are more expensive for the provider, which in the current case would be New Cingular Wireless PCS.
The city approved two Public Works and Buildings Committee reports at the Nov. 20 City Council meeting for new cellular installations to be in the right of way at 383 Elm Park Ave. and 596 S. York St., which will proceed to the city attorney for approval of the agreements themselves at a future council meeting. Those proposed agreements with New Cingular Wireless PCS each include a $5,000 application fee plus a $250 monthly lease, with a 3 percent annual increase.
Each proposed lease would allow New Cingular Wireless PCS to replace an existing 16-foot city-owned street light pole with a 35-foot combination pole, which would include a new street light and the cellular antennas, along with ground-mounted equipment boxes.
“We thought [those agreements were] a good solution, but again, we want to be able to review those with each company as they come in, not just have them say, ‘We’re going with that one,’ and perhaps we have a good reason for them not to use that ... access or what type of pole it is ... and so we’d like to retain that local control,” Grabowski said.