Bexley City Council passes legislation limiting cell-tower placement
After more than a year of discussion, Bexley City Council on Jan. 26 voted 7-0 to approve Ordinance 43-19, legislation giving the city the authority to determine where and how new wireless towers are installed.
The ordinance amends the city’s existing right-of-way ordinance, Chapter 1028, which regulates how improvements can be made to the public right of way. Key provisions of the ordinance include requiring communications companies to provide written notice to the city’s service director before installing cell towers and obtaining the service director’s written approval before removing any trees or vegetation during installation.
Another provision is when communications companies install cell towers, they must make their best effort to restore the public right of way to its prior condition, such as repairing or replacing streets and curbs.
“We bolstered that (provision), providing additional protections for right-of-way restoration, that the right of way needs to be restored,” Mayor Ben Kessler said.
Since the ordinance first was introduced by council member Troy Markham in December 2019, the city consulted with attorneys to ensure that the legislation could withstand legal challenges. The city also notified communications companies about the legislation, Kessler said.
“We have circulated the changes to the providers for review,” he said.
Before passing the ordinance, Bexley was one of several Ohio cities, including members of the Central Ohio Mayors and Managers Association, to join together and file lawsuits to challenge Ohio Senate Bill 331. That bill took effect in March 2017 and granted wireless companies the sole discretion to place wireless towers in the public right of way.
Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Richard A. Frye ruled June 2, 2017, that the bill violated the “single-subject” rule in the Ohio Constitution. In response, the Ohio General Assembly enacted House Bill 478 on April 11, 2018, as a replacement for SB 331. The legislation, which became effective Aug. 1, 2018, allows municipalities to create design guidelines that determine the placement of wireless towers on streets, sidewalks and other public rights of way as well as how the structures are screened from view, Kessler said.