Suburban opposition to cellular antenna bill growing
A growing number of suburban governments are formally calling on Gov. Bruce Rauner to veto a bill that would allow small cellular antennas on publicly owned utility poles, streetlights and rights of way.
They say the measure has the potential to litter their streetscapes with unsightly antennas and deprives them of local control.
Long Grove is among the latest towns to voice formal opposition, recently passing a resolution that says the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act "severely limits municipal authority to regulate, site or charge permit fees for wireless facilities."
The village also contends that private businesses would be allowed to use public property at a rate "far below market value."
Village President Bill Jacob said he's concerned about the potential erosion of Long Grove's character if the small antennas were to be installed on utility poles and other places.
"We'd have very little control over where it could all go," Jacob said. "We're giving up our rights on where those things can be placed. Look at all the power line poles we have out there. They can all have nice little mini cell towers on them."
Wireless providers say the antennas -- smaller and lower to the ground than the large cell towers in place today -- are key to the implementation of higher speed 5G technology.
Addison Mayor Richard Veenstra, who also serves as president of the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference, said the conference has opposed the act since before its approval by the legislature in November.
Their opposition primarily revolves around the state's setting the fees they could charge for placement of the antennas, as well as taking away municipal authority over where they can be located.
Veenstra said he recently heard Rauner express enthusiasm over the economic opportunity created under the act, but also understanding of the suburban opponents' concerns. The governor indicated he is willing to look into the issue more closely, Veenstra said.
Rauner's office did not return a message seeking comment.
Larry Bury, deputy director of the 45-member Northwest Municipal Conference, said his agency took no official stance on the November bill after opposing a significantly different version last spring.
Among their concerns were that public safety communications would be displaced by wireless providers and that communities would lose some ability to regulate them.
"We just wanted to make sure the rights of our communities weren't overlooked," Bury said.
Long Grove is not a member of the Northwest Municipal Conference. None of the conference's members objected to its neutral position on the act, Bury said.
The Illinois Municipal League also is neutral on the bill after having provided input that improved it considerably, Executive Director Brad Cole said. While many members remain opposed, the league as a whole decided to take no position.
Backers of the act, including Democratic state Sen. Terry Link of Vernon Hills, say it would lead to full 5G wireless projects and possible creation of 100,000 new jobs in Illinois. Supporters also contend having suitcase-sized antenna boxes on streetlights and utility poles would provide faster internet service.
Naperville, DuPage County and Grayslake are among the governments that passed resolutions in December asking Rauner to halt the proposal. Long Grove formally objected to the act about two weeks ago.