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Posted by on February 19, 2013.

Sandy Springs City Council blasts cell tower deregulation

City leaders say state legislators should scrap a bill that would erode the city’s ability to regulate cell phone towers and other antennas.

During its Feb. 19 meeting, City Council unanimously approved a resolution opposing House Bill 176.

The bill applies to all governments in Georgia.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Don Parsons, R-Marietta, undermines several aspects of regulations City Council approved in December. The city’s regulations were tailored to comply with the Federal Telecommunications Act, which allows local governments to regulate the towers as long as it doesn’t prohibit them.

“We cannot do anything that would prohibit someone from having access to wireless communications,” City Attorney Cecil McLendon said. “What this (bill) does is move it a couple of steps further.”

McLendon said passage of the law would mean the city couldn’t require telecommunications companies to camouflage their antennas or prove that no alternative sites exist.  He said it would also restrict the city’s ability to regulate the size of towers.

McLendon said the law would also prohibit the city from asking applicants to show a need of for a new tower.

City Council members scolded the legislature and alluded to Parsons’ profession and campaign contributors.

According to the nonpartisan website Votesmart.org, Parsons works as a telecommunications consultant. The communications industry is one of his largest contributors, having donated more than $12,000 to his political campaigns, according to the website. Parsons also chairs the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee.

A reporter sent Parsons an email message Tuesday evening seeking comment.

“It’s a shame that this is coming up,” Councilwoman Dianne Fries said.

“I think it’s a huge overreach and being done for unknown reasons,” Councilman Gabriel Sterling said.

In other business, the council approved condemning two pieces of property along Roswell Road to expand right of way for the city’s streetscape project, including one owned by a local strip club.

The parcels are the last two out of 26 the city needs for the streetscape project. The city has successfully negotiated for the other 24 parcels, McLendon said.

The parcel located at 6420 Roswell Road is owned by Charles Gary Evans and is the address for Flashers, a strip club the city sued in 2011 for alleged violations of city code.  The other property is a gas station at 6360 Roswell Road, and is owned by a company in Macon.

The condemnation will give the city additional right of way as it begins construction of sidewalks from Johnson Ferry to Abernathy Road.

The city has offered to pay at least $30,200 for the parcel located at 6420 Roswell Road and $71,850 for the parcel at 6360 Roswell. According to the city’s website, the streetscape will include, “installation of sidewalks on both sides of road and where this section is non-existent. In addition, pedestrian-scale lighting, crosswalks, street trees, bus shelters and associated landscaping will be installed.”

McLendon said the city will probably have to go through the courts to obtain a clear title to the strip club’s right of way.

Mayor Eva Galambos said the city is doing the strip club owners a favor.

“Here we are. We’re going to be spending a lot of money. We’re spending money to improve the private property owner’s outlook on Roswell Road and they’re making us pay through the nose and go through eminent domain,” Galambos said.

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