2019 Legislative Priority

Preservation of Local Authority to Site Small Cellular Infrastructure

The sole legislative priority for 2019 adopted by the Maryland Municipal League is the preservation of local authority over the siting and aesthetics of small cellular tower infrastructure. Recent actions at the federal level threaten existing local authority.

The FCC recently adopted an Order that preempted local governments in several areas of the small cell field, primarily: placing a cap on application fees as well as right-of-way access and pole attachment charges; and shortening the time which a small cell application must be processed, aka “shot clocks.”

During the 2018 General Assembly session SB 1188/HB 1767 was introduced on behalf of the wireless communications industry that sought to streamline and make uniform the local permitting and installation of small cell facilities. In reality, the bill preempted local governments in almost every aspect including important safety and aesthetic components such as zoning and right-of-way access. 

During the 2018 interim, MML along with the Maryland Association of Counties, and Baltimore City worked with wireless industry representatives in good faith discussions to seek a Maryland path forward on small cells. These talks are ongoing but MML anticipates the industry putting forth a bill in 2019.

MML will continue to work with stakeholders to protect local authority in the siting of small cell facilities, including vehement opposition to preemption of zoning, right-of-way access, design standards, and permitting processes. These local government functions are critical to our residents and represent the duty of our officials to promote safety and community character.

Strategic Initiatives

Oppose ANY ATTEMPT to Preempt Local Authority
The issue of small cell siting is just one example in a disturbing trend of local authority preemption by the State and
Federal government. MML is strongly opposed to any efforts that would eliminate or reduce existing authorities left to municipalities under the Maryland Constitution

Explore Municipal Revenue Options
Municipalities are overly dependent on their property taxes to provide essential services for their residents. Over half of municipal general fund revenues are derived from property taxes, and for some, property tax accounts for over 65% of total revenues, leaving municipalities with few options when fiscal challenges arise. Maryland’s cities and towns need additional revenue sources to enable them to provide new and support existing programs their residents desire.

Consider 5-year Annexation Rule Changes
Maryland law requires municipalities to obtain zoning approval from their county if they wish to develop annexed land for a different purpose other than the county’s current zoning classification within the first five years after the annexation is approved. If the “five-year” rule is imposed, it can alter the timely, planned development within a municipality.