The city of Shreveport is in the early stages of preparing an ordinance to regulate wireless telecommunications facilities, commonly referred to as small cell facilities. The briefing for the Council’s Infrastructure Committee indicated that the City will probably introduce an ordinance that is much greater in scope than other Louisiana cities.
Wireless facility ordinances have been adopted in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and recently Bossier City.
And if this sounds vaguely familiar, one need only look to the much-heralded Unified Development Code (UDC) enacted last year by the Shreveport City Council. Lauded to be an easy to read and follow economic development tool, the Shreveport UDC has proven to be a complex, timely and costly development/zoning code.
The Shreveport-Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) regulates the UDC, which is another problem in and of itself. To say the MPC has been “user-friendly” will be a gross misstatement if not outright total misrepresentation.
The Shreveport UDC and the Shreveport-Caddo MPC have not leveled the playing field for businesses looking to Shreveport versus Bossier. Early indications are the wireless facility ordinance could also be a business damper versus an incentive for Shreveport.
The presentation by the City of the need for this ordinance resembled in many ways the initial sales pitch for the ill fated sports arena.
City attorney William Bradford gave opening remarks. Then assistant city attorney Karen Strand and outside counsel Julie Lafargue moderated a power point presentation.
Thereafter several representatives of wireless carriers spoke to the Council emphasizing the need for small cell facilities in Shreveport.
The concluding speaker was a wireless consultant working with the City to develop the small cell ordinance. He also had a power point presentation.
The consultant advised that Shreveport has had a 100,000 device increase in wireless traffic in the last five years. He indicated that the large (macro) cellular towers were becoming maxed out and would soon be unable to handle the wireless demand.
He also indicated that in the not too distant future each city block in Shreveport would need a small cell facility. Large condo/townhouse developments as well as apartment complexes would need additional facilities.
Bradford also advised that MPC staffer Adam Bailey was assisting in this project.
The City proposed an interim application process for small cell facilities in November of last year. The resolution was circulated among wireless carriers. It was later withdrawn after the City decided to proceed with preparing a specific ordinance.
The carriers submitted a written report that pointed out several perceived problems, including the proposed fees. A model ordinance accompanied their written comments.
Bossier has a $500 maximum application fee for each small wireless facility. The application for each wireless support structure or attachment to a city owned pole is $1,000.00.
The city's initial draft ordinance proposed the following: application fee $1,000, $5,000 for MPC conditional use permit, $2,500 fee for modifications and a $8,500 expert deposit.
Bossier does not require an application to be reviewed or approved by the Bossier MPC.
Hopefully the city will not propose an ordinance that deviates substantially from those adopted by Louisiana cities and the “model” ordinance. Shreveport already has a UDC that seemingly was drafted for a high income, highly developed city with many bells and whistles (think Carmel, California) that imposes many expensive requirements not reflective of Shreveport and its business climate.
The 300 page (plus) UDC was difficult to analyze much less digest. And perhaps too much reliance was made on the MPC executive director Mark Sweeney rather than confidential input from the stakeholders, many of who were reluctant to openly oppose the UDC for fear of future retribution by the MPC staff.
The model ordinance submitted by the wireless carriers was only ten pages, and it is written in a fairly easy to understand format. It provides a good template to compare with what will soon be presented to the City Council and the general public.
Early indications for a user friendly ordinance for the wireless carriers are not good. The city previously adopted a Lyft/Uber ordinance that was too onerous. Not until the ordinance was amended did Lyft open for business in Shreveport. Seemingly the requirement of MPC approval should not be included in the ordinance or any other provisions substantially differing from those on the books in other cities.
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