Baton Rouge making progress on rewrite of 5G cell tower ordinance

    City-parish leaders and a 5G cell tower task force, composed of local civic associations, say they are making progress on reworking the ordinance governing the 5G small cell tower buildout in Baton Rouge. The goal is to be done in time to bring their proposal before the Metro Council at its Aug. 14 meeting.

    The 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. A 5G community task force, meanwhile, led by Gary Patureau of the Tara Civic Association, has sought legal counsel and is working with the city-parish to rewrite the rules. 

    At a July 11 meeting, the task force, city-parish officials and attorneys discussed the idea of creating a “neighborhood preferred location plan,” Patureau says, which would allow homeowner associations to identify areas where they would want cell towers to be placed.

    “We’re in the process of developing that concept now,” Patureau says. “The goal is on Aug. 14 to bring the amended ordinance to the Metro Council. We will help homeowner associations be proactive as we work together to determine (cell tower) locations.”

    Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel says the city-parish is open to the idea, but he cautions the ordinance must work for all neighborhoods. While some civic associations are organized enough to develop a preferred location plan, others are not. 

    “We have to be cautious that the ordinance works across the board,” Gissel says. “There’s a lot to think about. It will probably be a living document, with the ability to modify it down the line.” 

    The task force has created a website and raised more than $14,000 from local homeowner associations to cover the costs of attorneys at Daigle Fisse & Kessenich Law Firm, which represent civic associations across Baton Rouge and are helping sort through legal issues, FCC rules and the local ordinance. 

    All stakeholders involved agree on three issues at the core of the 5G cell tower discussion—aesthetics, property rights and the health and safety of residents. They’ve also been researching the issue as it plays out not just in Baton Rouge, but nationwide.

    Based on their research, AT&T is the only provider so far that has erected standalone towers, as a precursor to bringing 5G technology to Baton Rouge. Other providers—such as Cox, Sprint and Verizon—have not begun 5G rollout in Baton Rouge yet but are pursuing other ways of implementing the equipment, such as attaching it to existing structures, overhead wires or even manhole covers. 

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