The Midwest is generally not renowned for the beauty of its town planning. Acres of concrete strip malls with barren parking lots indicate a lack of aesthetic concerns. However, one Kansas mayor wants to protect his city’s aesthetics from telecommunications infrastructure.
In his winter newsletter, Rick Boeshaar, mayor of the upscale Mission Hills suburb of Kansas City in Johnson County, criticizes a new state bill, HB 2131. The rule makes it easier for companies to place unsightly wireless infrastructure on local streets, parkways and other rights-of-way.
“I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say they could put any type of equipment, whether it be a cell tower or a repeater antenna without the city’s ability to restrict what it looks like, or very little say in that,” said the mayor, who is also a former telecommunications company employee.
The City of Mission Hills official website describes some beauty spots that need defending: "First-time visitors to Mission Hills can’t help noticing our fountains, statues, sculptures and urns. Some are hundreds of years old and many are museum pieces imported from abroad. You’ll see them decorating our traffic islands or adorning our roadsides."
The law states that equipment can include antennae up to six cubic feet in size and enclosures of 17 cubic feet. Boeshaar said the wording of the bill could even allow cell towers in front yards.
The ruling, that came into force in October, says that "wireless facilities are critical for Kansas citizens" and "the facilities are matters of statewide concern and interest." The bill changes permitting arrangements that have allowed city authorities to control the placement of telecommunications infrastructure.
The mayor said other cities are also concerned by the law. "The bottom line: it's all about people and their property values," he added. "They all want their community to be desirable for people looking to move in."
Danny Wood is a freelance contributor to KCUR 89.3.