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Oak Park considers regulating wireless antennae

State law requires municipalities to allow wireless facilities on public utility poles

July 10th, 2018 3:30 PM

By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Oak Parkers can expect to begin seeing wireless antennae appear on public utility poles throughout the village, due to a recent law signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner – and local elected officials are not pleased.

The bill, known as the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act, requires municipalities to allow the wireless technology on municipal infrastructure such as light poles, utility poles and other infrastructure. The city of Chicago is the only municipality in the state that is exempt from the new law.

But a proposed ordinance, which got its first hearing by the Oak Park Board of Trustees on July 9, aims to adopt application and permit fees and set other standards for where the wireless facilities can be placed.

Municipalities have voiced their concern over the new law, arguing that it usurps home-rule authority of local governments.

Trustees did not take action on the local ordinance at Monday night's meeting, but they voiced their criticism of the new law. Village Attorney Paul Stephanides said the village has until Aug. 1 to adopt its on ordinance.

"If you have a historic concrete pole with a decorative figure on top, I wouldn't want to see a wireless facility on one of those," Trustee Dan Moroney said at the meeting.

Moroney said he'd also like to exempt certain prominent areas of town, such as the corner of Oak Park Avenue and Lake Street.

Trustee Deno Andrews said that the new law "usurps the open market," calling it "an overreach of state government."

"Right now if a provider wants to have cell towers, they have to rent space from a building owner," he said. "This allows the state to rent space from us for almost no money. We have almost no say in where they go."

Andrews contended the antennae emit a high-power frequency, and there is no long-term data showing they are not hazardous to people's health.

"I find it strange that if people start getting sick from these antennae, there is no recourse [from the village]," he said.

Stephanides said the state act gives no direction on aesthetic requirements or whether the wireless antennae can be placed in historic districts.

The proposed ordinance sets application fees for the wireless facilities between $350 to $1,000. It also sets the maximum permitted height of the wireless antennae. 

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com