Fort Wayne officials say they are watching a bill that could make it difficult to regulate where a communications company installs cellular utility poles or other wireless infrastructure in the public right of way.
House Bill 1050, which passed the Indiana House of Representatives in a 75-17 vote on Jan. 30, limits the ability of a city's underground and buried utility district to deny applications for new cellular towers. It was sponsored by Rep. David Ober, R-Albion.
“HB 1050 would limit the applicability of ordinances and resolutions passed last year in response to SEA 213 to areas zoned residential where all existing utility infrastructure is already buried,” Stephanie Crandall, the city's director of intergovernmental affairs, said in an email Wednesday.
In April 2017, the Fort Wayne Board of Public Works created an underground and buried utility district, which encompassed everything within the city limits. That move came in response to Senate Enrolled Act 213, which allows mobile technology companies to install small-cell infrastructure in a city right-of-way without a permit or fee. The state gave cities until May 1, 2017, to enact an underground and buried utility district.
The idea, City Attorney Carol Helton said at the time, was to place the entire city under the designation and remove areas later. Under SEA 213, no new territory could be added to the underground and buried utility district after May 1. Fort Wayne's district included all residential and commercial properties within the city limits.
House Bill 1050 would limit application denials to properties zoned for residential use prior to May 1, 2017. It's something city officials are keeping an eye on, Crandall said, but he noted that the city won't know how it will affect last year's resolution until the final bill is passed.