Rising concern by residents over the installation of small cell towers in neighborhoods has prompted Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome to request that AT&T temporarily suspend its buildout.
AT&T—which is constructing the towers in an effort to bring 5G wireless communication to the city—has no plans for additional residential locations at this time and will resume deployment efforts after answering questions from community members, the mayor’s office said.
“We won’t see any movement until we’ve resolved any further issues,” says Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel.
In the meantime, the telecommunications company is developing a communications process to make property owners aware of investment plans in the community that may involve the public right-of-way adjacent to their properties. AT&T has also complied with the site approvals process established by the adopted City-Parish ordinance and is working with property owners who have reached out with their specific concerns.
The news comes as the Federation of Greater Baton Rouge Civic Associations announced it will host a public meeting tonight at the Jones Creek Library at 7 p.m. to address concerns related to the installation process, such as aesthetics, resident safety and the protection of property values.
“How far-reaching (construction has) gone isn’t even clear at this point,” says Nancy Curry, federation president. “We thought it was something just happening downtown, and it flew under our radar before the towers began to pop up in Tara area.”
AT&T has for months been boring holes for small cell towers downtown, causing many headaches—most notably, a power outage in mid-October—for downtown commuters and residents. But construction activity has recently picked up, says Gissel, since entering different areas scattered throughout Baton Rouge, including Shenandoah, Hundred Oaks, Beauregard Town and neighborhoods near the LSU Lakes, among others.
At the meeting tonight, a handful of officials will inform residents about the installation process, providing the latest updates and answering questions posed by attendees. Speakers will include Metro Council member Matt Watson, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Kelvin Hill, attorney Davis Rhorer, Jr. and AT&T Louisiana representative David Aubrey.
Afterward, Tara Civic Association member Gary Patureau will deliver a presentation outlining the concerns of his “5G working group,” one of the loudest opponents of the small cell tower installation.
Curry—who says the meeting is designed “to teach people what the facts are”—says she expects roughly 100 attendees tonight, including representatives for Sen. Bill Cassidy and Rep. Garret Graves, whose offices would handle any desired changes to the Federal Communications Commission law governing installation practices.