The Bossier Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) is actively working to prevent an unsightly and damaging annoyance for Benton-area residents.
The MPC is working with the Bossier Parish Police Jury and Town of Benton to craft an ordinance that would put regulations on billboards and cell towers in the area.
“It’s kind of like the ‘Wild Wild West.’ Not having any regulations there leaves the door wide open,” said Carlotta Askew-Brown, assistant director of the MPC. “We’re seeking reasonable measures to protect homeowners and businesses.”
Currently, the Benton area doesn’t have any regulations regarding how many off-premise signs, commonly called billboards, can be beside each other, how many can be put in a row, or how close they can be to a home. The only regulation is that it must be in a commercially-zoned district.
“The problem is commercial property has homes all around it. Those residents will be negatively impacted, especially at night when it’s brightest,” said Askew-Brown.
She added there were no issues until currently because many billboard companies assumed that the current billboard ordinance went throughout the parish.
That all changed when a billboard went up at the corner of Benton Road and Kingston Road.
“No one inquired until the request to put the billboard at Benton and Kingston,” she said. “Everyone found out they could put a billboard there and not have any rules and I can’t stop them legally.”
She said the MPC has received complaints, saying, “A lot of that is they’re not used to that type of thing in the parish. They’re concerned that it affects property values.”
Currently, both the Police Jury and Town of Benton have called a six-month moratorium.
The MPC is working on crafting an ordinance similar to that of the one in place for Bossier City. This would mean spacing requirements from residential-zoned properties, size requirements, requirements on how many can be placed on one site, and a night sky ordinance to require dimming at night.
“We just re-did the billboard ordinance and it’s working out really well. Because we handle Bossier City, Bossier Parish and the Town of Benton, we want it to be similar so you don’t have to memorize all these different rules,” Askew-Brown explained.
As for cell towers, Askew-Brown noted that the current ordinances are so dated that telecommunication towers weren’t common, and now they’re beginning to proliferate.
“The problem stems from people not liking the way the look. They have to be taller in the parish, we’re talking 200-300 feet tall,” she said. “And you’ll see a whole lot more of that as the parish grows.”
“The public is concerned about neighboring properties being affected in the case of a collapse. But we can require proof that the tower will be built where it falls in pieces,” she added.
The MPC can also require co-location to allow multiple carriers per tower to avoid multiple towers for each different service provider, as well as distance requirements.
The issue was originally raised during the Police Jury’s meeting in early May when Sam Marsiglia, director of the MPC, told jurors, “Business in Benton is good. With that comes growing pains.”
Askew-Brown said the Police Jury and town trust them to craft the ordinance and bring it to both bodies for approval.
“They know we have the expertise and want us to come up with something and bring it to them. They’re leaving it up to us because we deal with it all the time and they don’t.”
The MPC will have a public hearing on Aug. 6 before it is reviewed by the MPC board and then taken before the Police Jury and Benton Town Council.
“With the growth going north, we need to jump in front of it before it gets out of hand,” Askew-Brown added.