LAKE OZARK, Mo. - In a move that City Administrator Dave Van Dee calls "completely unrelated" to a controversial law passed by the Missouri legislature last spring, the Lake Ozark Board of Alderman voted unanimously to place a moratorium on the construction of telecommunication towers within the city.
The vote, which was taken during a special meeting Nov. 18, will stop the construction of communication towers within the city limits for a period of two months.
Van Dee said, despite rumors to the contrary, the move to place the moratorium was not prompted by problems other Lake Area towns are experiencing because of the "Uniform Wireless Communications Infrastructure Deployment Act" passed by the legislature last spring.
"There are already at least three telecommunication towers inside the city limits," Van Dee said, "and when we learned another company planned to put up a cell phone tower near the Paul's Supermarket, we realized that we did not have any kind of ordinance governing the placement of towers inside the city."
Van Dee said he spoke with the company that plans to put up the new tower and asked them to delay long enough for city officials to gather the necessary information to compose an ordinance governing the large telecommunication facilities.
"Right now we're in the process of gathering information from other cities on how they worded their ordinances on the construction of towers," Van Dee said. "Once we have enough information on hand, we'll write an ordinance and take it to the Planning and Zoning Commission for review. If they approve it, then we'll bring it back to the board for a vote."
However, to give city staff enough time to gather the needed information, the board had to first pass a separate, temporary ordinance banning the construction of all telecommunication towers within the city limits.
"Without the moratorium someone could have put up a tower wherever they wanted before we were able to get an ordinance written and passed," Van Dee said. "And most homeowners wouldn't want a 100- or 200-foot tall tower next door."
In writing the ordinance instituting the moratorium, city officials did cite a recent ruling by the Circuit Court of Cole County that ruled the Uniform Wireless Communications Infrastructure Deployment Act invalid. Van Dee said city officials included the court's ruling in the ordinance "just to make sure we covered all our bases."
In the moratorium ordinance, the city describes "wireless telecommunication facilities" as "a structure, facility or location designed, or intended to be used as or used to support antennas, or other transmitting or receiving devices. This includes, without limit, towers of all types and kinds and structures including, but not limited to buildings, church steeples, silos, water towers, signs or other structures that can be used as a support structure for antennas or the functional equipment shelters and other structures associated with the site."
However, Van Dee said the moratorium does not include small privately owned towers erected on private property for the express purpose of operating a short wave radio.
"Private ham radio operators can put up a tower on their own property so long as it is short enough that if the wind blows it over it will not fall onto a neighboring property," he said.
Furthermore, Van Dee said, the moratorium does not apply to already operating wireless telecommunication towers within the city unless they pose a threat to public safety.
The ordinance putting the moratorium in place went into effect immediately after passage and will "not exceed the period of time necessary for the City of Lake Ozark to gather information, study and determine the desirability of adopting a comprehensive application and permit process for the placement, construction or modification of Wireless Telecommunications Facilities within the City."
Van Dee said originally city officials intended to keep the moratorium in place only for a period of 60 days, "however we discovered it may take a little longer than originally thought. Currently, we're planning on bringing the new ordinance before the board shortly after the first of the year."