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Police Jury hears concern over lack of guide for billboards and cell towers in Benton

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The Benton area may soon have a plan for guiding the growth of billboards and cell towers.

During the Bossier Parish Police Jury’s regular meeting Thursday, Sam Marsiglia, director of the Bossier City-Parish Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC), addressed the jurors on issues with applications for off-premise signs, which qualify as billboards, and cell phone towers.

“Business in Benton is good. With that comes growing pains,” Marsiglia said.

He said the increase in permits for off-premise signs and cell towers in the Benton MPC area is of some concern as there is no ordinance regulating the growth of those.

“Right now there are no regulations as to how many you can have beside each other, how many you can have in a row, or proximity to a house. The only regulations are is they have to go in commercial district.”

Marsiglia noted that LED technology makes for bright signs that could create issues when placed next to a home.

Carlotta Askew-Brown, assistant director of the MPC, told the jury that she has received several public information requests for cell phone towers, which gives the indication they are “about to proliferate.”

“The issue is that we have the carrier agree to co-locate other carriers on the same tower so we don’t have proliferation of towers (with one carrier for each tower),” she said. “They are tall. These are in the 200-300 foot range. We want to get some regulations on size and height so it adds protections to the area.”

Marsiglia asked the jury for their help in crafting an ordinance tailored for the area, based off Bossier City’s current ordinance.

“We have a good base in the Bossier area. It’s not rocket science. We can take that and adapt it for the Benton area,” Marsiglia said.

The jury voted to turn the issue over to roadside division committee, which would help devise an ordinance that could be brought back before the jury for a vote of approval.

Bossier Parish Police Juror Glenn Benton pointed out there is no parish-wide ordinance and hoped to use this instance to devise one.

“We kicked this can down the road and came up with a good ordinance for Bossier. I would hate to see one ordinance for one city, another ordinance for a different city,” Benton said.

Bossier Parish Engineer Butch Ford notified the jury that another issue with cell towers is the requirement to run a fiber optic cable in parish right of way.

“It’s creating a lot of havoc,” Ford said.

He explained that when the size of parish roads were designed  decades ago, cell towers didn’t exist. In addition, the distance required between a fiber optic cable and another utility means more space is needed to accommodate the cable.

To widen right of way by the space necessary for the fiber optics, Ford noted, “We can’t afford it. On Airline Drive? We can’t afford it.”

“Water, sewer, power – we designed our road sizes by those utilities. Now cell towers are how everything is going to communicate. We may have to widen our road right of ways so you’re capable of putting utilities in our roads,” Ford said.