VANDALIA — The City of Vandalia is joining other local municipalities in a lawsuit against the State of Ohio over a law that allows telecommunications companies to place cell phone antennas and other equipment in public right-of-ways with virtually no restrictions.
City Council voted to join a lawsuit with members of the Greater Dayton and Central Ohio Mayors and Managers Associations on Monday night. Other cities, including Columbus and Cleveland, have also filed suit.
“The City of Vandalia desires to assert its home rule authority to control the use of local right-of-way in the best interests of its citizens,” said City Manager Jon Crusey.
Cities are challenging Substitute Senate Bill 331 that, according to Crusey, “severely restricts the city’s ability to regulate the installation of small cell antenna and related equipment in the public rights-of-way.”
Crusey said a small cell antenna can be 60-78 feet in height while other towers could be 90-120 feet tall.
Under the legislation, the city must grant a request to install a small cell facility within 90 days and treat it as a permitted use. Cities are not permitted to require companies to provide any information regarding the proposed facility and they are not allowed to institute a moratorium.
According to City Attorney Jerry McDonald, the bill was originally about selling dogs and puppies when it was introduced. The cell tower provision was added late in the legislative process and may violate what is known as the “single subject rule.”
The single subject rule is a provision in the Ohio Constitution that prohibits a bill from containing more than one subject.
The amendment adding the small cell facilities was added in the House after the bill had passed the Senate without the provision.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 small cells will be installed nationwide by 2018 to improve wireless service. Up to 800,000 could be build by 2026.
Crusey said that Vandalia is not opposed to small cell facilities and the city understands that citizens desire advanced wireless service and that eventually, small cell facilities will need to be located within the city.
“However, the city desires to work with wireless communication companies regarding the placement of these facilities in order to preserve the aesthetics of the community and protect the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens,” he said.
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.