Controversial cell tower ordinance to be introduced

The long awaited Shreveport ordinance to regulate wireless cell towers will be introduced to the Shreveport City Council on Monday, March 26.

And if Councilman James Flurry has his way, the final version of this ordinance will be gutted for several reasons.

The first is that the permits for the cell towers will be filed with, of all places, the Shreveport Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC).

Yes, the same office that was the subject of a well attended meeting recently at the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce to air long simmering problems of the building community with the MPC.

And this is the same separate governmental entity that is the subject of discussion to internalize as a city department.

Flurry has an ordinance which was tabled to do just that. He will attempt to force a vote on this major planning/permitting change before the vote on the wireless cell tower ordinance.

Flurry’s second objection to the ordinance is the requirement that permit application for cell towers must be reviewed by the city’s independent expert consultant. The City has been working with a national consultant who has a track record of requiring unreasonable, expensive requirements for cell tower installations.

Verizon Wireless successfully sued the Town of Brutus, N.Y. to have this very same consultant removed from permit application process.

The ordinance sets high fees ($750 for the MPC and $3,500 for inspection/permit) and requires a deposit of $4,250 for the consultant.

Seemingly the City of Shreveport is going down the same path that lead to its adoption last year of the much heralded, but greatly disappointing, Unified Development Code (UDC). This code was to make it easier, more efficient, and less costly to do business with the city for development and construction. Just the opposite has been the effect.

The proposed cell tower ordinance has been cut down from the 80 page treatise in February to less than 30 pages. But it still greatly exceeds the scope and complexity of similar ordinances adopted in Bossier City, Baton Rouge, and Monroe.

The ordinance was funded by both the City and the Parish and developed by the MPC, which is a separate government entity.

But this ordinance is exactly the wrong legislation at the wrong time.

John Settle is a Shreveport-Bossier attorney and political columnist