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Pending Bill Would Preempt Local Zoning for Equipment Installed on an Existing Tower

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Ronald D. Richards Jr.
Foster Swift Municipal Law News
April 25, 2012

With lighting-fast speed, the Michigan Legislature has moved forward on a new bill that would preempt local zoning when it comes to handling requests to co-locate wireless telecommunications equipment on an existing tower.  The bill, SB 1064, would change how municipalities can handle applications to install or co-locate any equipment and network components used to provide wireless communications equipment (including antennae, transmitters, receivers, base stations, equipment shelters, cabinets, generators, and cables).  SB 1064 appears to be getting fast-track treatment and may be enacted into law very quickly.  There are six important parts of SB 1064:

  1. It amends the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act to state that wireless telecommunications equipment is a permitted use of property and not subject to a special use permit approval or any other approval if these four requirements are met:
    1. the equipment would be co-located on an existing wireless telecommunications support structure or in an existing equipment compound;
    2. the existing structure or compound complies with the local municipality’s zoning ordinance or was approved by the appropriate zoning authority or local official;
    3. the proposed co-location would not increase the overall height of the support structure by more than 20 feet or 10% of original height, whichever is greater; or increase the width of the structure by more than the minimum necessary to permit co-location; or increase the area of the existing equipment compound to greater than 2,500 square feet.
    4. the proposed co-location complies with the terms of any previous final approval of the structure or compound by the appropriate zoning body or official.
  2. It says that any wireless communications equipment that does not meet the height, width, and area requirements is a permitted use if it receives special land use approval through the procedures in SB 1064.
  3. For those applications that go through SB 1064’s special land use approval process, it sets these new deadlines:
    1. Any application is deemed administratively complete if the municipality does not notify the applicant of its completeness within 14 days of receiving the application.  Failure to object to the application’s completeness within the 14-day period means the application is deemed administratively complete.
    2. A municipality has only 60 days from when the application is deemed administratively complete to approve or deny the application.  Failure to approve or deny in that period means the application is granted.
    3. For those applications that do not meet the four requirements above to be exempt from the SUP procedures, the municipality has only 90 days to render its decision.
  4. It limits a special land use application fee to $250 or that local unit’s administrative costs, whichever is less.  This will alter many municipalities’ current practice of imposing the costs of its review on the applicant.
  5. A special land use approval of wireless communications equipment may be made expressly conditional only on the equipment’s compliance with federal, state, and other local laws before the equipment begins operation.
  6. A municipality may not authorize wireless communications equipment as a permitted use of property not subject to special land use approval.