5G cell tower ordinance rewrite now expected to go before council in September

    City-parish officials continue to work with a community task force on rewriting the 5G cell tower ordinance, though it has taken longer than initially thought and is now expected to go before the Metro Council in September.

    Previously, the goal was to introduce the ordinance rewrite in August, but Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel says the city is taking its time to make sure it has adequate community input in crafting the new guidelines governing the 5G cell tower buildout in Baton Rouge. 

    Community leaders who formed a 5G cell tower task force say their priorities are protecting property values, aesthetics and health and safety of residents, as well as requiring advanced notice of tower placement and allowing neighborhood preferred location plans. 

    “There are a lot of pieces and parts,” Gissel says. “And we’re trying to make sure the community has buy-in.”

    The city-parish also must be careful to craft local rules in line with federal guidelines, he says, which were enacted by the FCC to expedite the rollout of 5G wireless networks. 

    Cities across the U.S. are pushing back against the FCC rules, arguing they infringe upon local authority to zone and regulate infrastructure like small cell towers. More than 90 cities and counties have joined together in a lawsuit, currently before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, saying the FCC has overstepped its authority, The Wall Street Journal reports. 

    Gary Patureau, who heads up the 5G cell tower task force in Baton Rouge, says the FCC does give local governments some regulatory authority and other cities, like Mobile and Shreveport, have much stronger ordinances than the one Baton Rouge had. 

    “The FCC does allow you to consider aesthetics and property value,” he says. 

    The task force is working on components of the ordinance that deal with those issues, as well as others that local civic associations feel strongly about like advanced notice and preferred locations, Patureau says, while the Parish Attorney’s Office is working on components regarding fees the city-parish would charge for cell tower permits. 

    The Metro Council agreed in June to amend the ordinance in response to resident concerns over AT&T cell towers placed in their neighborhoods. The complaints prompted Mayor Sharon Weston Broome to temporarily suspend the buildout.

    The task force is meeting Thursday night to go over its ordinance components, Patureau says, which the group plans to have ready for the Metro Council by its Sept. 11 meeting. Also, see this column from Governing on the 5G tower controversy. 

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