COLT, others oppose steeple bill

The Loudoun Cities Coalition has added its voice to those opposing a bill introduced by Sen. John J. Bell (D-13) to override local authority and allow telecommunications companies to build wireless communication towers up to 150 feet high virtually anywhere they want.

In a letter to state lawmakers, the coalition, a group of seven mayors from the city of Loudoun, warned that the bill “forces the approval of any wireless infrastructure anywhere a business wants it.”

“The provision of the bill requiring approval if additional capacity or coverage has been created for first responders is a de facto removal of any local zoning authority for communications infrastructure, as the possibility that a first responder may use the coverage or capacity of newly installed infrastructure is certain and absolute,” the letter reads.

And they warned that this would not only apply to cell towers, but also to the deployment of small cells, including a photo illustration of a small cell installation on the sidewalk along Washington Street, the main street crossing Middleburg.

Local authority over cell towers is already circumscribed; Senate Bill 255, if passed, would further limit local government and eliminate local zoning from the picture. Local governments would be required to automatically approve any request to build a cell tower up to 150 feet as long as it “provides additional wireless coverage or capacity for first responders” or is at least four miles away other rounds. The bill would apply to applications filed after or after July 1 and sunset July 1, 2024. Bell had filed the bill to take effect immediately and indefinitely and apply to towers up to 200 feet high.

The only exception would be in federal, state or local historic districts.

The Senate Committee on Local Government passed Bill 9-6, including a yes vote from Senator Barbara Favola (D-31). On Thursday, the Senate agreed to send the bill back to committee.

The bill faces opposition from conservation organizations, the Loudoun Board of Supervisors, the Virginia Municipal League and the Association of Virginia Counties.

Bell previously threatened state action if the board of supervisors denied a controversial AT&T proposal to build a cellphone tower atop Short Hill Mountain, a request that sparked outcry and resistance from residents. of the region. The bill’s first responder language is particularly friendly to AT&T. One of the telecommunications giant’s arguments when seeking local approval to build a tower atop Short Hill Mountain was that the tower would also support FirstNet, a separate wireless network dedicated to first responders.

The supervisors rejected the request to build this tower on an 8 to 1 vote.

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