The city of Lake Ozark has jumped into the cell tower fray as municipalities learn more about legislation that apparently would have opened the door to cell phone companies locating towers within city limits with little regulation.
The board of aldermen approved a 60-day moratorium during a special meeting Monday on the issuance of permits for the construction, placement or modification of cellular towers within the city limits.
City Administrator Dave Van Dee said the moratorium allows the city to develop regulations regarding those types of structures.
Lake Ozark's decision comes less than two weeks after the Osage Beach Board of Aldermen had a pointed discussion with State Rep. Rocky Miller over legislation he supported that would have given wireless communication companies the green light to place towers virtually unregulated.
The legislation is in limbo, however, after a Cole County District Court found the bill to be unconstitutional due to wording in the title. The ruling is under appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court.
Laurie and Sunrise Beach trustees are expected to discuss the cell tower issue at their upcoming meetings.
Miller told the Osage Beach board Nov. 7 that the intent of his original, two-page bill was to help ensure that all areas of the state would have access to fiber optics and Internet services. He said the intent was that municipal planning and zoning laws would usurp the language and give cities the ability to regulate wireless towers. By the time the legislation reached the governor's desk it had expanded to several pages, with Miller's original intent sidetracked.
He told the board he had failed to keep Osage Beach and other cities within his district apprised of changes to the bill, and promised to communicate better in the future.
Missouri House Bills 331/345 removed the ability of cities to regulate cell phone towers within city limits. Although Gov. Jay Nixon signed the legislation, the city of Liberty (and others) sued the State of Missouri claiming the titles of House Bill 331 and House Bill 345 violated a Missouri Constitution "single subject" and "clear title" rule.
Osage Beach aldermen are expected Thursday night to consider a draft letter to Representative Miller that outlines not only their concerns but also offers suggestions for future legislation.
City Attorney Ed Rucker said in an agenda item summary sheet that the letter "expresses concern about legislation that will almost certainly be reintroduced in the next legislative session" and "suggests language to exempt municipalities from the effects of the legislation."
The letter, drafted at the request of the board and Mayor Penny Lyons, says that the city needs Representative Miller's help. The city has not had problems with the current system, has not been sued by any wireless provider, nor has it had any problem in the wireless tower application review process, the letter states.
Page 2 of 2 - The legislation now under appeal would "gut the provisions of our current code," the proposed letter to Miller says. The language, while purporting to preserve planning and zoning authority over cell towers, directly eliminates the city's ability to enforce its own ordinances, the letter states.
The city's letter offers suggested language that would provide protection and regulation.
"To preserve the character of our community, the city needs the ability to regulate the following issues:"
•The ability to prioritize the location of wireless towers.
•Proof from the wireless company that there is a need for what the company is proposing
•That the public's safety must be ensured for upgrades and modification to existing towers for co-location of equipment.
•That the city should be able to recover all of its reasonable costs associated with expert third-party review of applications and permits.
"Wireless telecommunication towers and facilities have a dramatic impact on the aesthetic and property values within the community and the quality of life of our citizens," the letter concludes. "It is our opinion that the adoption of the … act would be a detriment to the city's ability to protect our citizens and their homes and businesses from this impact."
Aldermen will review the letter and make any necessary changes before it is sent to Representative Miller.