Ohio Legislature Passes Small Cell Amendments

Substitute House Bill 478 (“Sub. H.B. 478”), which was passed on April, 11, amends Ohio’s law regarding small cell facilities in the right-of-way. Such facilities will be used to support 5G cell phone technology.  We have prepared a detailed chart, comparing the existing provisions of Chapter 4939 (as amended by Senate Bill 331) and the provisions of Sub. H.B. 478.

Sub. H.B. 478 makes a number of noteworthy changes to the law, including the following:



• Allows a municipality to adopt and apply reasonable, written design guidelines.


• Increases the amount of time to review an application for installation of a new pole in the right-of-way from 90 days to 120 days.


• Provides that a municipality may determine the application fee (up to $250) and annual rental fee (up to $200) in its sole discretion, and also allows a municipality to adjust its fees for inflation.    


• Limits the number of applications that can be submitted together (consolidated) to 30 and requires that consolidated applications be substantially similar to one another.


• Lowers the maximum permitted height of new poles from 50 feet down to 40 feet, generally; and allows a restriction as low as 35 feet when there are other height restrictions in the area. But note that in the absence of local regulation, height limits can be exceeded.


• Requires that operators timely act when a permit is issued and allows a municipality to require that an operator remove abandoned facilities.


The legislation is awaiting Governor Kasich’s signature and will go into effect 90 days after he signs it.


Municipalities should start preparing small cell legislation and design guidelines as soon as possible so that they are ready when the new law takes effect. Legislation should address issues including application requirements and procedures, fees, height limitations for new wireless support structures, and specific regulations regarding the design of small cell facilities. Small cell design guidelines should be tailored to the needs of the community.


Municipalities with a comprehensive right-of-way ordinance should review the ordinance in light of the new law. Communities should also consider creating application forms for small cells as well as training personnel on evaluating small cell applications in compliance with the new law.


Your community can simplify the process of addressing small cells by developing appropriate legislation, forms and guidelines before you receive a small cell application under the new law. Taking a proactive approach will protect your community and diminish the burden on your building, planning, service, engineering and legal personnel when applications are received.


Bill Hanna is head of the Public Law group at Walter | Haverfield. He can be reached at whanna@walterhav.com or at 216-928-2940.


Todd Hunt is a partner in the Public Law group at Walter | Haverfield. He can be reached at rthunt@walterhav.com or at 216-928-2935.


Jessica Trivisonno is an associate in the Public Law group at Walter | Haverfield. She can be reached at jtrivisonno@walterhav.com or at 216-619-7870.