Hopeful wireless providers must be in 'harmony' with the community
Wireless providers proposing small cell towers in Shreveport would have to show that the towers are in "harmony" with surrounding communities, according to city documents released this week.
The Shreveport City Attorney's Office released a draft of a proposed ordinance last week, establishing "a uniform and comprehensive set of standards" for companies wanting to create Wireless Technology Facilities, or WTFs, within city limits.
Providers, including AT&T and Verizon Wireless, have approached city leaders in recent months saying Shreveport needs to jump on the 5G Wireless bandwagon to speed up internet connections and become a "smart" and "progressive" city.
Members of the public and of the city council have voiced questions and concerns about how WTF implementation in Shreveport might look.
The draft ordinance, though not final prior to a council vote, puts forth the most comprehensive blueprint of the city's current vision to date.
"We look forward to receiving all comments, written and verbal, during this review and adoption process," said Assistant City Attorney Karen Strand.
The draft ordinance contains specific provisions intended to "protect and promote public health, safety, community welfare and the aesthetic quality of Shreveport." Among the provisions:
All facilities must comply with Federal Communication Commission regulations concerning maximum radio frequency and electromagnetic frequency emissions.
All facilities must be secured to prevent unauthorized access.
All facilities and equipment must be set back from property lines and habitable buildings by 110 percent of the total height of the facility.
WTF support structures cannot block or encroach upon sidewalks
Wireless telecommunication towers must be designed to structurally accommodate other telecommunications providers.
Small cell facilities must be designed to blend into the surrounding environment and complement the streetscape "through use of color, camouflage and architectural treatment."
The draft ordinance notes that antennas must use "stealth design," meaning that they should be enclosed or otherwise camouflaged within existing structures such as church steeples or chimneys.
Towers must have a "galvanized silver or gray finish" and must be coated with a "rust-preventative paint" that "harmonizes" with community surroundings.
All WTFs also must be shielded from view from nearby residential areas with shrubs that will be at least three feet tall at maturity.
Providers are not permitted to establish WTFs within 300 feet of a property within a historic district or landmark. The facility also should be situated "to ensure historic or culturally significant vistas and landscapes are protected," subject to review by the Historic Preservation Commission.
Any WTF not operated for 180 consecutive days will be considered "abandoned" under the drafted ordinance.
The city council's infrastructure committee first discussed WTFs and small cell receptors in early January.
Rusty Monroe, a consultant to the city, said then that the city had experienced a 100,000 percent increase in wireless traffic and that existing structures were maxed out.
Under the draft ordinance, providers could establish WTFs on approved public right-of-ways, public or private land.
Administrative review and approval involves a site visit, a pre-application meeting with the Metropolitan Planning Commission executive director or staff and the city engineer and consultant, submitting an application and paying the related fee.
The MPC may apply "reasonable conditions" prior to approval, according to the draft ordinance.
Providers could appeal an adverse decision to the city council within 10 calendar days. They could appeal the council's decision to Caddo Parish Civil District Court within 30 days of the council decision.
Fees and fines
Cities may decide who will pay application costs: taxpayers or the providers. The draft ordinance places that responsibility on the provider.
The draft emphasizes that no organization or individual would be allowed to place a WTF on any city property without a valid permit. Nor would a building permit be issued prior to a valid WTF permit.
Those who violate the terms of the article, when approved in final form, will be subject to penalty fees per day and per violation. The city also will retain the right to revoke permits or order that construction work stop, the drafted article states.
This article originally ran on www.shreveporttimes.com.