The Senate Energy and Technology Committee heard testimony this week on SB 493 (Sen Rick Jones), a bill prohibiting a local unit of government from adopting an ordinance that deals with amateur radios (called HAM radios) and prohibits locals from restricting antennas of amateur radios to heights below 90 feet unless they make certain proofs and sets unreasonable standards. The League along with Tim Wolff, village manager for Lake Isabella, testified in opposition.
The HAM radio industry indicates they are codifying what the federal government already requires. However, we feel this legislation takes that a few steps further because the federal guidelines do not have a 90 foot preemption or require the local unit of government to have “clear and convincing” evidence as to why they deny a HAM radio.
We do understand the importance this technology plays in safety when all other systems go down. However, we have multiple concerns with this legislation. First, we have a concern for the preemption of local control. These towers can be unsightly and can drive down the property values for those around, especially if not properly maintained so we need to ensure that the local unit of government is able to have a say in where they are placed so the location makes sense for the community.
Second, the League is concerned about the safety and property of those property owners surrounding the antenna. Should that antenna fall, it should not be large enough that it cannot fall on the same parcel of property. This would help ensure neighboring structures are protected and help minimize private property damages.
Third, we have concerns that the language in this legislation does not address collocation. We wouldn’t want to see these amateur radio towers being used to host other things such as TV dishes.
We look forward to working with the sponsor and the industry to see if a solution can be agreed upon.
Nikki Brown is a legislative associate for the League handling economic development and land use issues. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-908-0305.