Ordinance #1012 “Small Wireless Facility and Support Structure” was introduced at the Havre de Grace City Council meeting on Monday, January 7, 2019. This is a very time sensitive piece of legislation, whereby the Mayor and City and City Council will have to take measures outside of the normal parameters and timetable of conducting City business from the dais.
While these measures meet the legal requirements set forth in the City Charter, the Mayor and City Council will entertain comments from citizens this Thursday, January 10th at 6pm in the Havre de Grace Council Chambers. Following the Public Hearing, the Mayor and City Council will conduct a Special Council Meeting to entertain those comments, and then move for a Second Reading and Adoption of Ordinance 1012, which will be implemented upon adoption.
Over the past year, the Administration with guidance from the City Attorney and Director of Planning, have analyzed the best method in which the City can handle requests for placement of small cell facilities on City Rights of Way. The City prepared draft legislation several months ago, but withheld its introduction waiting for the conclusion of the citizen comment process for impending regulations at the State and Federal levels.
The Maryland Municipal League (MML), has been working on behalf of municipalities to oppose any State regulations that would usurp the right of local communities to determine their own standards. Unfortunately, the State agency recently issued an order making the regulations effective January 14, 2019, with certain mandated requirements effective as of that date, and providing that aesthetic standards be adopted by April 15, 2019.
What does this mean for the City of Havre de Grace?
Without local legislation passed prior to January 14, 2019, the City will be unable to regulate any small cell facilities on an ad hoc basis. Going forward, the State and Federal regulations will limit municipal action and review regarding deployment and installation of small cell facilities. The general effect of the State order is to prevent local governments (counties and municipalities) from taking actions through local legislation or approval processes that “materially limits or inhibits the ability of any competitor or potential competitor to compete in a fair and balanced legal and regulatory environment.”
On January 14th the “shot clock” and “fee restrictions” standards take effect. Therefore the City will adjust the fee schedule in the City Code in order to be able to collect fees for small cell facility applications within the standards permitted under the State regulations.
Prior to April 15th the City must adopt “aesthetic standards” under the current State agency order. These aesthetic standards will include what the ““Small Wireless Facilities and Supports Structures” will look like, which is especially important throughout our historic city.
Without this legislation, the City will not have any input as to where these “Small Wireless Facilities and Supports Structures” can be located within a City ROW or the aesthetics within the area.