Westwood has joined the long list of Johnson County cities that have pulled back on how they regulate wireless companies adding equipment along streets or other publicly owned land.
The City Council voted unanimously Thursday to adopt a series of amendments to its right-of-way ordinance. The changes restrict how much city officials can limit telecommunications companies that seek permits to install equipment in public rights-of-way.
Essentially, the city must treat requests from cell phone companies the same as any other company. For example, the city no longer can require a wireless company to provide a study showing that new cellular technology is necessary in a certain area before allowing it to be installed.
Cities across Kansas have had to make similar concessions in response to state legislation approved last year that was designed to encourage the construction of more wireless infrastructure, improve access to wireless broadband and create more consistency in how such technology is regulated at the local level.
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City Attorney Ryan Denk noted that the main thrust for the legislation was to help companies wanting to install so-called small cell technology on telephone poles, street lights and other roadside structures. He said these miniature cell towers would allow a company to boost wireless signals for its customers without needing to build the typical 120-foot cell tower.
He also said that given the costs of installing the microcells, which fit on top of the pole or streetlight, it’s unlikely companies will install a lot of them.
“It’s market-driven,” he said.
In other business:
▪ Councilwoman Margaret Bowen announced she was stepping down at the end of the month after only a little more than a year in office. Bowen said she is moving to Prairie Village next month.
Mayor John Ye said he plans to appoint a replacement to serve the remaining two and a half years of Bowen’s term in July.
▪ The council held a public hearing to establish a 22-year, 0.9 percent Capital Improvement District, or CID, sales tax on the Woodside Health and Tennis Club, part of the Woodside Village development. The tax would cover sales within the club as well as a parking garage in the second phase of Woodside Village being built south of 47th Place.
The tax would be added to an existing 1.1 percent CID approved for the development several years ago and would go to offset development costs for the second phase, which is expected to include 244 residential and commercial units and 16,300 square feet of mixed-use retail and office space. An attorney representing the developer was the only person to speak during the hearing.
The council is expected to vote on the CID at its July meeting.
▪ Council members unanimously approved a new annual contract to provide police services to Westwood Hills. The price of the contract is increasing from $150,000 a year to $155,000.
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