Some people told him it wasn't a fight worth fighting, Rory Rowland said, but he feels a bit vindicated now.
Having heard many complaints from his constituents, the state representative had prodded representatives of Mobilitie to take down a couple of the monopole cell towers it had erected with little warning on public rights of way in Independence.
One of them along Lee's Summit Road, in front of Cracker Barrel near Interstate 70, came down Wednesday. Further north on that road, the tower in front of Drumm Farm is slated to come down in the near future, though Rowland is unsure when that will happen.
The towers' purpose hasn't been questioned. California-based Mobilitie constructed them for providers such as Sprint, which want to densify their coverage and make 5G network speeds – the newest high-speed development – available to more customers.
Their often-aesthetically unpleasing locations – close to roads and sometimes in direct sight lines of residential areas – and lack of much public notice have been the source of consternation from some citizens.
Rowland said he's been badgering the company's lobbyists in Jefferson City, and Independence City Manager Zach Walker said the city also has had better communication with Mobilitie.
“My goal was to get them removed by working with Mobilitie, and this is the first to go,” Rowland said. “I think they (lobbyists) got tired of seeing me walking in their direction.
“We need cell service in Independence, but we want the companies to work with us in the process to find locations that are agreeable to all.”
The suddenly appearing monopoles also frustrated Independence city officials, who bemoaned their lack of control due to state regulations and, upon further investigation, some local policies that needed updates.
The city staff has retained a law firm in Springfield that specializes in utility regulatory law to help craft ordinances that preserve some local control, and hopefully create more push for some change in state regulations. Mayor Eileen Weir said a big priority for change should be the so-called “shot clock.” Those are the time frames that – by state law – a city has to consider a telecom's wireless permit, and raise an objection, before the permit is deemed automatically approved. In most cases, that is 30 days.
“We've had some good, diplomatic discussions with (Mobilitie), where they have voluntarily made the decisions to remove those poles,” Walker said. “They have committed to sharing potential sites with us about any future poles, and look at alternatives such as the small cell attachments on existing structures.”
Walker said the city has been trying to make clear that it welcomes the service provided, as long as the monopole locations don't cause a lot of citizen grumbling.
“We're having a much healthier dialogue with them at this point, and they're being much more transparent about their intentions.”