As our readers know, the Illinois General Assembly previously enacted legislation to provide certain protections for small cell wireless providers to install their facilities. Those protections included restrictions on municipal control over the installation of these facilities. Most Illinois municipalities subsequently enacted ordinances to implement the statutory limitations and procedures on the approval process and standards for small cell wireless facilities.
Recently, a bill was introduced in the Illinois House that would allow property owners to sign and submit a petition to the municipality demanding that the municipality hold a hearing prior to the approval of a small cell wireless facility or facilities. HB 4653. The petition would have to be signed by the lesser of (1) 250 property owners or (2) 40% of the property owners within 1,000 feet of where the facility would be located. The “authority” would be required to hold the public hearing at a regular meeting and hear testimony and receive evidence from the property owners. The authority is required to forward this evidence and testimony to the FCC following the hearing. The proposed legislation states that the hearing must not interfere with the statutory time limitations imposed on the municipality in deciding an application.
This bill raises a lot of questions, including what “authority” is to hold the hearing (plan commission? village board/city council?), whether a zoning hearing that might otherwise be required would satisfy this requirement, and what happens if the petition is filed after an application is scheduled for approval or actually decided. Also, the legislation raises question about the relevancy of any testimony and evidence given the narrow constraints of municipal control over these facilities due to state and federal laws. It remains to be seen whether this legislation will go anywhere but if it does, hopefully these issues will be further fleshed out so municipalities have clarity on the scope, relevancy, and timing of this hearing requirement.