The Johns Creek City Council this week voted unanimously to oppose state legislation that would limit city zoning controls for cell phone towers.
According to the city council resolution, House Bill 176 would negate the Federal Telecommunications Act, which authorizes cities to regulate the placement of towers through zoning procedures as long as wireless coverage is not prohibited.
City attorney Bill Riley told the council that the bill is an "attempt by the cell phone industry to subvert the zoning process."
While the bill would mean that cell phone companies don't have to prove a need for the tower, don't have to prove that they haven't found a better location, and don't have to prove a need to enlarge the tower later, the city would still be required to hold a zoning hearing.
Riley said the council would be forced to approve zoning requests and bear the brunt of political consequences. He said the legislature is taking away the city's tools to zone, but at the same time the legislature won't have to face those same consequences.
"I can't imagine what decision is left to us," Mayor Mike Bodker said, expressing his concern that the city would have to hold zoning hearings, but couldn't do anything.
Council member Brad Raffensperger said that he finds the proposed state legislation "abusive" and that it negates the point of cities forming in North Fulton if their power is stripped away. "How can we be compelled" to approve zoning? he asked.
"We'll be in litigation constantly," Riley replied.
City Manager John Kachmar said that Virginia tried similar legislation years ago. "It turned out to be a disaster," he said. "It's amazing . . . that another state would try it."