Ottawa city officials approved an ordinance and a resolution that will set standards and fees for new technology at Wednesday morning’s regular commission meeting.
The commission unanimously approved an ordinance approving small cell aesthetic standards and a resolution setting a fee schedule for companies wishing to locate cell boxes on city right-of-way.
At the Monday study session, city attorney Blaine Finch told the city commission that there is a Jan. 14, 2019, deadline in place for cities to have ordinances passed for smaller wireless facilities that will replace the cell phone towers. He said regulations made through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) require cities to act on the new technology.
“We all have cell phones and we think about 4G but we are moving toward a 5G world,” Finch said. “The smaller wireless facilities create a mesh of signal that is at a lower elevation but you find more of it in populated areas. So you will begin to see co-locations of these almost shoe box size antennas in various places. This is the coming trend.”
Finch told the commission it is important to have fees and ordinances in place.
“There is a concern among some cities that some wireless companies will inundate them with requests on Jan. 15 to locate on all of their light poles or all of their traffic signals with these small cell antennas and that cities will have no recourse, no way to review it and say that’s not going to work at that location or those poles aren’t rated for those antennas or we want it to look somewhat different that may be best for your business.”
Finch presented the commission Monday with an ordinance to outline the aesthetic guidelines and a resolution setting the fee structure for use of the public right of way.
Commissioner Blake Jorgenson was concerned that the ordinance and fee would prevent a business to come to the community with 5G.
“This is simply a per pole cost so each time they want to get onto one of your poles and use the public right of way, they pay a one-time fee to do that,” Finch said. “It’s essentially an application and permit fee.
Finch pointed out at both Monday and Wednesday’s meeting that by passing the ordinance and resolution, the city would be able to go back and revise them if needed. But not passing them would restrict the city from making new regulations.
“It’s not static forever but if you don’t pass it by the 14th, the FCC’s current rule, which is being appealed, says that you’re out of the game and you can’t regulate,” Finch said Monday.
At Wednesday’s meeting, commissioner Tom Weigand asked it other cities in the area were adopting these standards. He was concerned that Ottawa would be viewed as a place that was not receptive to new technology if they were the only city in the area that had restrictions. Finch said that was not the case.
“Many of the communities in Johnson County have an ordinance like this,” he said. “Actually more restrictive than this. Overland Park and several other cities. Overland Park and city of Wichita have these. Ours is modeled after the city of Ellis which isn’t a large community. We have a good mix of large and more urban communities and smaller, more rural communities throughout the state that are looking at this.”
At Monday’s study session, utilities director Dennis Tharp said the ordinance would keep companies from putting in multiple polls and cluttering up the right-of-ways.
“Likely, if there were three or four different carriers that wanted to be in the same spot, our poles would not accommodate that,” Tharp said. “So what they do at that point is they would start sticking poles in the ground randomly wherever they thought it was good for them and it would eventually become just a jungle of poles. With this, we can control that.”
In other action the commission:
— Ammended and earlier resolution on smoking in Ottawa parks to ban smoking in Legacy Square when it opens. Ottawa Chamber of Commerce Director John Coen told the commission at Monday’s study session that the project was eligible for a grant from an insurance company if they were to take this step and ban tobacco products from the beginning.
“This should be taking or adopting the same language you are used to seeing,” Cohen said. “I’m asking for this so we can move forward with a possible grant that we applied for which this is one of the requirements that we somehow effect police and this would meet that requirement.”
Coen said the grant awarded could be near $25,000 which would be significant.
“It’s a chance not only to help our funding for Legacy Square but to make it a healthy area,” he said. “We know we are going to have families and kids there. There’s going to be a child’s play area eventually there. So this seems like a good time right from the beginning to enact this resolution.”
— Approved proclamations recognizing Kansas Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
— Recongnized Dana Stephenson for his years of service to the city. Stephenson is retiring after almost 35 years with the city in the utility department.
— Approved a quit claim deeds between the City of Ottawa and Dengel and Son Mortuary trading the City’s 50 feet on the south end of the Parking Lot G for Dengel and Son’s 50 feet on the north end of the parking lot to make it easier for them when having a funeral service.
— Amended the city truck routes.