At its meeting on Tuesday night, the Auburn City Council approved an ordinance that allows the city to adopt regulations for small cell wireless facilities and equipment in the city.
The regulations cover the deployment of small cell wireless facilities and associated structures and equipment along the right of way and on private land in Auburn, according to a description of the ordinance included in meeting materials.
The push to pass the ordinance comes as the city tries to get out in front of a small cell wireless bill in the Senate (SB172) that the Alabama Legislature is expected to take up once it reconvenes its regular session, most likely in May. The state bill has drawn concerns from the Alabama League of Municipalities, which stated that "the overriding concern with the bill ... has been the limitation of authority in municipal rights of way by the state and in favor of telecommunications providers. Additional concerns include the time frame the bill gives cities to respond to applications from telecom providers to install small cell infrastructure in rights of way and limitations on the fees cities may charge to offset costs of this process."
The legislature's bill does allow municipalities to be grandfathered out of the state bill requirements if it has its own small cell regulations in place before May 1.
"Due to the likelihood of SB172 passing even in these unusual circumstances, I consider this legislation essential for us to consider and I recommend that we pass our ordinance in April to protect us from the restrictive provisions that SB172 would impose upon us if we do not have an ordinance in place before May 1," said a memo from City Manager Jim Buston to the council.
The full small-cell wireless ordinance, which the city worked on for almost a year, is attached to this article.
"This is a place-marker in time to beat the legislature back into session," said City Attorney Rick Davidson.
Buston explained the process for a small cell wireless application under the ordinance.
"Basically, they have to make an application. They would have to abide the provisions of the ordinance," he said. "The council would have the authority to approve or deny them based on aesthetics, based on the right of way being already overcrowded if it were, based on a variety of things that would be out of our control if we didn't have such ordinance to allow us more control."
Auburn Mayor Ron Anders said 5G wireless has been one of the top concerns of the mayors of Alabama's 10 largest cities.
"This is a pretty significant statewide concern," he said.
At its meeting, the Council also approved the annexation of about 32 acres along West Farmville Road. The property, owned by the Auburn City Board of Education, is the proposed site for a new elementary school.
The City Council also approved another term for Melanie Chambless on the Auburn City Schools Board of Education. Chambless has served one partial and one full term.