Proposed Legislation in Pennsylvania

December 2011Newsletters In the Zone

Senate Bill No. 1345 proposes to create the “Wireless Broadband Collocation Act,” which would regulate wireless telecommunications support structures by, among other things, attempting to streamline the process in connection with applications for modifications and proposed collocations that meet certain requirements.

The proposed act defines the term “collocations” to mean “the placement or installation of new wireless facilities on previously approved and constructed wireless support structures, including monopoles and towers, both self-supporting and guyed, in a manner that negates the need to construct a new freestanding wireless support structure.” Additionally, the proposed act defines the term “wireless support structure” to mean “a freestanding structure, such as a monopole, tower, either guyed or self-supporting, or suitable existing or alternative structure designed to support or capable of supporting wireless facilities. The term shall not include any electrical utility pole or tower used for the distribution or transmission of electrical service.” The foregoing definitions are used throughout the proposed legislation.

The proposed act would apply to a local governing authority (generally, a municipality or municipal authority) that has adopted zoning ordinances and land use regulations for the placement of wireless support structures by stating that a local governing authority shall not place any additional requirement on the applicant that has the force or effect of:

(1) Regulating the placement of an antenna or related equipment for an existing wireless support structure; provided, however, if the placement of an antenna on an existing wireless telecommunications support structure requires an extension, the placement may be regulated by a local governing authority if the extension would require the wireless support structure to have lighting or the extension exceeds the height limitation of the authority;
(2) Imposing additional costs or operating restrictions on an applicant for the collocation of new wireless facilities unless the support structure is owned by the local governing authority. For the purposes of this section, collocation shall not be deemed an expansion;
(3) Requiring the applicant to provide any sort of justification for radio frequency need; and/or
(4) Acting to prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the provision of personal wireless services.

The streamlined process of applications would, generally, provide that an “application for collocation or modification of a wireless facility entitled to streamlined processing under this section shall be reviewed for conformance with the local governing authority’s applicable site plan and building permit requirements, including zoning and land use conformity, but shall not otherwise be subject to the issuance of additional zoning, land use or special use permit approvals beyond the initial zoning, land use or special permit approvals issued for the wireless support structure or wireless facility. Previously approved wireless support structures and wireless facilities can be modified or accept collocations without additional zoning or land use review beyond what is required by the local governing authority for the issuance of building or electrical permits.”

The proposed legislation makes it clear that nothing in the act “may be construed to limit or preempt the scope of a local governing authority’s review of zoning, land use or permitting applications for the siting of wireless facilities or wireless support structures or to require a local governing authority to exercise its zoning power, as provided for in the [Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code].”

For more information, please contact David H. Comer at 610.397.7963 or [email protected].

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