Prairie Village Council passes legislation to address new state law allowing wireless facilities on right-of-way

The new state law overrules cities ability to regulate wireless utility boxes like this being located in the public right-of-way.
The new state law overrules cities ability to regulate wireless utility boxes like this being located in the public right-of-way.

The Prairie Village City Council sought to soften the impact Monday of a new state law that allows wireless providers to locate equipment on any public right-of-way.

The state law, which went into effect Oct. 1, removed local control over regulating wireless equipment in an area common to most neighborhoods, that zone of right-of-way property between the street curb and sidewalks.

“This is a massive grab of local control by the state legislature,” said Councilmember Eric Mikkelson. “I’d like to resist that as much as possible.”

The Council adopted revisions to its right-of-way ordinance that mandates new wireless equipment be located underground as much as possible. It also said that whenever possible, new equipment be located on existing street poles.

It also requires that any utility box with a footprint larger than 12 square-feet and 54 inches tall require a permit.

Most Johnson County cities already have amended their regulations–reluctantly–in response to the new state law including Overland Park and Leawood.

The law, called the Kansas New Wireless Deployment Act, was approved after the Legislature determined that “wireless facilities are critical to ensuring that all citizens in the state have true access to broadband,” according to a legal briefing to the Council.

Cities can continue to apply what was described as “reasonable public health, safety and welfare requirements and regulations.”

Using that standard, the new revisions approved by the Council limit the use of right-of-way, as much as possible, so that all facilities and lines be placed underground and the height of above-ground facilities be limited.

The height restricts would be 35 feet in residential or collector streets and 45 feet for arterial streets. It also calls for above ground facilities, as much as possible, not be located in front of single-family homes.