Both Blue Springs and Independence municipalities are strongly against a bill that city leaders say undermines local government authority and oversight in regard to telecommunications towers and other infrastructure, such as antennae or equipment buildings.
Missouri SB650, or otherwise known as the Uniform Wireless Communications Infrastructure Deployment Act, has passed through the legislature and now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Brad Lager and Rep. Kathryn Swan, aims to “help ensure that robust wireless radio based communication services are available throughout Missouri.” Among the provisions of SB650 are that a governing body cannot dictate the type of wireless infrastructure or facilities used by an applicant and cannot require the removal of existing wireless support structures or facilities as a condition for approval.
“I am vehemently oppose to it (SB650) not only as mayor of Blue Springs, but also as a member of the Missouri Municipal League Board of Directors,” said Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross. “It usurps local authority when it come to zoning and residents.”
Independence Deputy City Manager John Pinch says the city also holds that position concerning the bill.
“We don’t think this is good legislation,” said Pinch. “This (SB650) impacts property values.” He added these particular kinds of equipment and facilities may end up in residential areas. Plus the bill raises a safety concern, he said.
“There have been occasions where these towers have collapsed,” he added. But he also said that Independence has never experienced a problem with a communication tower collapsing. Independence currently has 28 communication towers.
A member of Lager’s legislative staff, Richard Germinder, says the bill is mainly about Missouri governing bodies responding to a cellphone or telecommunications company’s permit application in a timely manner, and he said that many city officials in Missouri are misconstruing the bill’s language.
“A city will still have the ability to exercise regulation and zoning (on applicants),” Germinder said. “SB650 does not grant eminent domain rights. The notion that a wireless structure can appear anywhere is unfounded.” He also added the bill does not require additional measures by an authority for the location of wireless infrastructure.
Blue Springs City Administrator Eric Johnson and Mayor Ross said they do not understand the need for such legislation, as both pointed out the city of Blue Springs has been cooperative with wireless communication companies on infrastructure in the past.
“Approximately 12 years ago, the City Council, (city) staff and the telecommunications industry worked hard to collaborate and come up with a local ordinance to address issues relating to site-location of cell towers, zoning, co-location requirements, use of rights-of-way, permitting process, etc.,” wrote Johnson in an email. “To date we have had several telecom companies locate their structures in our City and I am not aware of any issues or problems that we have encountered.”
Ross also referred to the city constructing a monopole at Central Park in Blue Springs that will relocate existing telecom equipment from the downtown water tower, which is scheduled to be removed starting March 27.
“Local authorities are elected by people in those jurisdictions,” said Ross. “We don’t need laws from Jefferson City taking away that right.”
“We’re (city of Independence’s administration) stewards of the community,” said Pinch. “We get input from people on locations, buffering, landscaping and things of that nature. This bill prevents protecting those rights.”
Ross said he has contacted Gov. Nixon’s office to voice his opposition to the bill. He said the governor has until July 15 to sign the bill into law, veto it or allow it to take effect without his signature. It would take effect in August.