German Village neighborhood officials are pondering another potential nonconforming use by a utility, and there might not be much they can do about it.

The latest issue is the possible installation of 5G wireless towers in the historic district.

Delilah Lopez, executive director of the German Village Society, said she will spend the next month gathering information from service providers.

As of Jan. 17, no representatives from a cellular service provider had approached village leaders about the issue.

"While we understand that technology is constantly evolving and we want our historic district to evolve with it, we would like to be part of the conversation on how the two grow and evolve together," Lopez said.

The society has a choice on two things: colors and materials of the pole, officials said.

Otherwise, state law limits the ability of municipalities to regulate small-cell tower placement in the right of way, said Deborah Briner, spokeswoman for the Columbus Department of Public Service.

"The city of Columbus encourages cell providers to co-locate small-cell facilities on existing Division of Power infrastructure rather than new poles, but we cannot mandate it," Briner said.

Currently, there is no mechanism in place for public involvement with small-cell placement because they are developed in the right of way according to state law and Federal Communications Commission regulations, she said.

Permits already have been granted for placement throughout Columbus in city rights of way.

"We'll do our best to explore other options, including placing equipment on existing poles ... to mitigate new structures," Lopez said.

The city has some ability to review small-cell permit applications for consistency with adopted design guidelines to avoid placement directly in front of homes and commercial storefronts, Briner said.

Also, the city has general restrictions on new wood poles.

For example, co-location of small-cell facilities on existing poles is a priority, she said.

Where a new pole is proposed at any location, the city reserves the right to require a metal pole rather than a wood pole based on the character of the proposed site location.

In particular, new wood poles are strongly discouraged in historic neighborhoods, historic districts under the purview of the city's Historic Resources Commission and other historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places, Briner said.

"Since we have not yet had any conversations, nor have explored what our residents would be comfortable with, we do not know which option is least intrusive," Lopez added.

German Village is skittish about any encroachment on the historic fabric of the community.

The society in 2017 was feuding with Columbus Gas of Ohio about relocation of meters from inside structures to the exterior.

After a months-long protracted debate, a compromise was secured. It would allow society representatives to help choose a suitable location that satisfies gas company needs and preserves neighborhood aesthetics.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary