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Hampton Council opposes bill that favors wireless providers

| Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, 4:09 p.m.
Hampton Council opposes a bill that will allow wireless structures to be built while ignoring local regulations.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Hampton Council opposes a bill that will allow wireless structures to be built while ignoring local regulations.

Hampton Township Council voted to oppose House Bill 1620 that would allow wireless providers the ability to install wireless structures without having to adhere to local regulations.

The Wireless Infrastructure Deployment bill “removes the municipalities ability to collect funds pertaining to wireless cell phone service incorporated into the cable franchise fees, but also allows wireless infrastructure towers on private residential properties within the utility right-of-way without the property owners' consent and without township approval,” according to the township statement.

For example, a company like Verizon would be able to place a cell tower anywhere they want, said Christopher Lochner, township municipal manager.

Municipalities and communities usually have zoning laws or government regulations that manage this type of activity.

“You could lose your land-use control. You could have a zoning ordinance that they can supersede,” said Lochner.

Martin Orban, township land use administrator, said the bill would allow wireless corporations to “put it anywhere without any authority from a municipality.”

Aside from the ground, Orban said a wireless structure could be placed on a telephone pole or perhaps a home.

“They don't need a property owner's permission either,” said Lochner.

Vince Tucceri, legal counsel for the township, suggested perhaps these wireless corporations are behind the bill because they don't want to have to adhere to the many different zoning laws and regulations at each municipality they enter.

House Bill 1620 on the Pennsylvania House of Representatives website, called the Wireless Small Cell Broadband Act, was presented by Reps. Nick Miccarelli and Frank Farry in June 2017 explaining there's a growing demand for wireless communication services, including high-speed broadband in rural Pennsylvania.

“However, because siting decisions are made on a municipal level in Pennsylvania, the wireless industry is faced with varying and inconsistent fees and siting procedures that hamper its ability to deploy this critical wireless infrastructure,” per a memorandum by Farry and Miccarelli.

The representatives said their legislature provides that local government would still have some authority over zoning and land use, but certain fees, permitting requirements and general policies would be limited, among other things.

The Hampton council members unanimously agreed to sign the resolution noting their opposition at the Jan. 24 regular meeting.

Lochner said the signed resolution will be sent to the Pennsylvania League of Municipalities with other communities, which will be directed to the appropriate Pennsylvania legislation.

Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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