Updated 12.13.2016

Lame duck sessions of legislative bodies have been known to pass measures that have not been successful during regular sessions. Often, these come in the form of amendments to bills to which they may or may not have any real relationship.

Such an instance occurred this past week, when the Ohio General Assembly passed the so-called “Petland bill (Senate Bill 331),” which regulates where pet stores can purchase puppies for sale. Among amendments to that bill was one which all but eliminates the ability of cities in Ohio to regulate the erection of so-called “microwireless” or “small cell” facilities in public rights-of-way.

In other words, cities cannot use zoning or business regulation authority to state where these devices can be located, or their height or appearance. Some Ohio cities require that they be camoflauged, be located in “utility corridors,” or be grouped together.

In addition, these companies must be afforded unrestrained access to traffic signals, sign poles, and utility poles. Several additional portions of the amendment desired by wireless providers were removed before passage, including the unfettered ability to place these devices on municipal buildings. Towers of up to 50 feet in height are allowed.

This removal of local authority pertains only to cities; townships and counties were not included. The move came as carrier AT&T and other carriers attempt to blanket the state of Ohio with 5G service. The Buckeye State was the first where this type of legislation was attempted.

Several Ohio communities are already expressing dismay about the possibility of these antennas springing up on streets, roads, highways, and alleys throughout the state and in both residential and business settings. The measure is also considered by some to be an affront to Ohio’s home rule authority for cities, which is detailed in the Ohio Constitution. Some sort of legal challenge is expected.

In the meantime, should Governor Kasich sign the legislation, those living, working, and visiting Richland County cities may soon see these antennas on a frequent basis.

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