At the last council meeting, I was introduced to a new bill that could potentially change some public land and even residences own property and landscapes around town. The things to note here is that these changes currently are out of the control of Barberton and we have absolutely no say so in the matter. The Service Providers will not have to pay to use our land either.
What are you talking about Justin?
Bill 331 was signed by Kasich in December 2016 that classified cellphones as a utility and as such the law allows cellphone providers to build new cell towers up to 50 feet high in the public right-of-way at their discretion. This means that if they deemed your devil strip essential for performance, you could end up with a cell tower in your front yard.
The scenario above is not just some made up scare tactic to sway your opinion, it has been proposed already. Contractors for these companies have come into Barberton and have strategically marked possible location where these “micro towers” could go. The results were devil strips, sidewalks Lake Anna, parks and our kids schools.
What can we do to protect Barberton?
For the past year or so, the City has been working with a law firm in Columbus, Ohio to create an ordnance amendment that would restrict and protect our city from undesired placement. The result is currently 67 page document that is currently in draft to be passed here shortly by City Council. The amendment covers annual registration, construction, maintenance, etc.
Shannon Wokojance (Ward 1 Council Woman) stated that she understands that this is important but she wanted this topic to be read at least a couple of times in Council Chambers to make sure that every citizen understand what is going on. I applaud her for stepping up and doing so. Although this is a time sensitive matter, the city has had 1 year to get this done and should not be rushed through blindly “just because”.
The citizens are now able to educate themselves and I am able to learn and then write about it without having to use past tense which seems to happen a lot within our city.
If we are to protect ourselves from random cell towers, we need this amendment. After reading the full 67 page document, I find myself trying to determine what the City of Barberton can do and what the Service Director can do. Throughout the document you will find that the Service Director is given sole authority to basically forego all restrictions if the person holding the Service Director position chooses. I would not have an issue with this so much if the Service Director was an elected official.
Do not misconstrued my words though. I am not saying that the Service Director (Currently Mike Vinay) has anything but the best intentions. However, it does create a single point for these powerful companies to lobby. I would much rather see a board put together with citizens of Barberton advised by the City attorney and the Service Director. At a bare minimal, the City Council should be involved.
The amendment does also force these companies to compensate the city for every cell tower they place within city limits. The amendment also establishes that no tower (unless authorized by the City) be placed in a historic District. Each tower will require the Service Provider to register for construction which can be approved or denied. This amendment simply provides some guidelines to how and where towers can be placed.
I do not think this goes far enough to protect the residence specifically but it is surely better than nothing.
Share your thoughts!