State Rep. Don Parsons (R-Marietta), one author of the bill, said the goal was to increase cellular coverage for public safety and economic development.
Recent changes to the bill stated that cellular providers who apply to install towers couldn’t require bonding on the equipment. The original draft didn’t have the requirement, causing some concern, Mayor Mark Mathews said.
For example, if a company built a tower and then years later decide it wanted to move it, the bill would make it so the local government could not require the company to take down the tower as a condition of relocation.
Kennesaw officials remained opposed to that aspect of the controversial bill, Mathews said. Some — including Parsons — say the bill didn’t have anything to do with local governments being able to consider the location for a cell tower, Mathews said.
But the Georgia Municipal Association claims local governments wouldn’t have the right to deny an application under those grounds.
“We saw nothing positive in the bill,” said Amy Henderson, spokesperson for the Georgia Municipal Association. “The bill didn’t allow a city or county to ask a company to consider other sites for a tower.”
Parsons said the bill wouldn’t have taken authority from local governments, but rather would have increased their power. It didn’t change what local governments could do regarding placement of towers, he said.
Mathews said he believes Kennesaw and all other municipalities would have had the right to deny requests, and because of that and other concessions in the bill giving the local governments that ability, Kennesaw pulled back on its strong recommendation of denial of the bill just prior to the bill’s stalling in the House.
Kennesaw requires an engineering study to determine how towers would affect service in the area, Mathews said. The study could have determined outcomes of application requests.
The legislation also included a shot clock in which local governments must approve or deny an application for a tower within 150 days or the application will automatically be approved.
“I didn’t have a problem with the shot clock,” Mathews said. “The least you can do is be responsive in a reasonable period of time, whether you’re in favor or against the tower.”
Kennesaw has zoning regulations with time limits in place, Mathews said, which are fairly cooperative when it comes to issues like cell towers.
“The real issue comes in when you get into a location where our zoning doesn’t allow it and you have companies asking to rezone the property,” he said. “Those will create quite a bit of controversy, but the legislation as it’s proposed with changes doesn’t take the denial power from us.”