Much to the chagrin of the wireless technology business community, Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler is determined to introduce ordinances that many believe have not been fully vetted. The 80 pages (plus) of new ordinances will regulate the installation and operation of wireless technology facilities (WTFs), commonly referred to as cell towers.
The industry stakeholders were emailed a second draft of the proposals after hours on Thursday Feb 2. This left very little time to analyze this information before a 10:00 AM conference on Monday Feb 5.
It was apparent from the “get go” that the stakeholder meeting was a “check the box” charade.
Over twenty people, including representatives from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and SWEPCO, were herded into a small, hot cramped conference room. Shreveport contract attorney Julie Lafargue chaired the meeting, and ran it like she was an army drill sergeant.
Lafargue made it very clear that the City was going to proceed, come hell or high water, with the introduction of the three ordinances on Tuesday Feb 13. She stated that very little would be changed from the drafts, other than correction of obvious inconsistencies.
Lafargue did acknowledge that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has established stringent restrictions on regulation of WTFs by municipalities. Guidelines for cell towers must be “reasonable” and that all charges imposed by municipalities must be reflective of the actual costs incurred.
Seemingly these FCC mandates were not taken seriously by Lafargue and the city attorney office. The complexity of the permit process, the fees to be charged and the restrictions on the size, shape, and appearance of the WTFs were, for the large part, very “unreasonable” by industry standards.
Verizon had five out of town representatives at the stakeholder meeting. The lead spokesman made it very, very clear that Verizon would not expand its cell towers in Shreveport if the proposed ordinances were enacted. AT&T reps mirrored this position.
Many other concerns were voiced by those in attendance from other companies. Very few of their comments were given much consideration by Lafargue or assistant city attorney Karen Strand.
City Attorney William Bradford insists that the ordinances must be adopted this month. Bradford’s timeline is very unrealistic, to say the least.
Any ordinance must “lay over” for two weeks before adoption. No doubt the Council or the Infrastructure Committee will conduct a public hearing on the ordinances. It can be expected that the concerns of the wireless carriers will be given more than just the time of day by the Council.
Bradford maintains that urgency is necessary because the city presently does not have ordinances to govern the size, location, aesthetics and safety features of WTFs. He says that the Shreveport Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) and the City “have been inundated with requests for new cell towers, modifications to existing towers, and placement of fiber in the city rights of way.”
Tyler is running for re-election this fall. So are four of the seven Council members. Tyler’s motivation in dumping on the Council a complex, complicated and highly contested ordinance package smells of election politics more than good government. Unfortunately, the Council will be stuck with wading through these stringent regulations that should be carefully analyzed, clarified and adopted before approval. It’s a big burden on the seven part time elected officials who do not have as much staff support as the City has dedicated to this effort.
BRADFORD ADVISED ON THURSDAY, FEB 8 THAT THE ORDINANCE INTRODUCTION WILL BE DELAYED.
John E. Settle, Jr.
February 7, 2018