An example of a “small cell” antenna is seen a photo included in a Sandy Springs presentation. (Special)

Sandy Springs City Council passed regulations March 5 for “small cell” wireless antennas in preparation for state legislation that could remove some local control. The new regulations require companies to install new antennas on existing poles if possible and sets fees.

The city says the legislation would reduce local regulations on placing small-scale wireless antennas on poles in the public right of way. Supporters of the bill say it would ensure high-speed internet access to rural Georgia. The city’s ordinance sets regulations that legislation still gives cities the authority to do.

The ordinance passed unanimously. Councilmember Andy Bauman was absent from the meeting.

Mayor Rusty Paul said the ordinance will allow the city to regulate what he expects to be many applications to install the equipment.

“It’s going to be in people’s front yards. It’s not just going to be on major thoroughfares,” he said. “It’s going to be in every street in Sandy Springs before it’s all over with.”

Paul said this year’s legislation is still restrictive to local governments, but is better than last year’s version. Some powers are still not provided to cities, like the authority to require the equipment be taken down if it is no longer used, he said.

“A lot of our flexibility and discretion has been removed,” he said.

The legislation may change before it comes up for a vote by the General Assembly, but Paul said the city is trying to “protect our community to the greatest extent possibly” by taking action now.

We’re trying to maintain some modicum of control at the local level,” he said.

The ordinance passed by the council requires companies to install antennas on existing polls where possible to reduce the amount of new equipment along city streets, said Jim Tolbert, the assistant city manager. The company must present documentation certifying the inability to collocate if unable, the ordinance said.

“We’d have a forest of poles if we’re not careful,” he said.

The application fee for collocation is $100. Replacement poles will cost $500 and new poles $1,000.

The fee for using the city’s right of way is set at $100 per year for collocation on an existing or replacement pole, $200 per year for new poles and $40 per year for collocation on a city pole, according to the ordinance.

Companies will also be required to comply with regulations prohibiting above-ground utilities where utility burial has occurred. The antennas would still be permitted to collocate on light poles in underground utility areas, the ordinance said.

The ordinance also gives some leeway for the city control where poles would be installed in residential areas. The city can ask an applicant to install the pole in a new location within 100 feet of the original unless it adds significant costs or is not technically possible.