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City Council Approves New Wireless Telecommunications Ordinance

The City Council voted 4-1 to approve the new ordinance that governs the placement of cellphone towers in Calabasas.

The on Wednesday voted to adopt the final draft of an ordinance that governs the placement of cellphone towers and other similar facilities in the community, ending a process that began more than a year ago.

Council members voted 4-1 on the item, with Councilwoman Lucy Martin casting the dissenting vote because the new wireless telecommunications ordinance still needs to address some unanswered questions.

Mayor Pro Tem Fred Gaines, however, said he was ready to vote in favor of the document as-is.

"The citizens of the community made very good points and voiced their concerns about aesthetics and locations," he said. "We have an imperfect but a forward-looking ordinance so I'm encouraging support for it."

The council enacted a moratorium last spring on considering wireless facility applications last spring while the city drafted a new ordinance.

The document establishes how far from various zones in the city that service providers are allowed to build wireless facilities that could come in various forms, including poles and underground facilities.

But service providers can bypass those restrictions if they could prove a significant gap in coverage, a recommendation made by Andrew Campanelli, an New York-based attorney hired as a consultant to review the new ordinance.

Campanelli said the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits cities from denying wireless facility permits outright, unless service providers fail to demonstrate a significant gap in coverage.

Some residents opposed including such an exception and urged the council to ban wireless facilities in areas such as open space and near schools without living in fear of litigation.

Linda Stock, a local resident and member of the Communications and Technology Commission, said she supports the ordinance, but wants to know if the document has any weight over some data collection units Southern California Edison plans on installing in the next year.

"The definition of personal wireless telecommunication facilities in our ordinance covers equipment use for the wireless transmission of voice, data images or other information including but not limited to cellular phone services, personal communication services and paging services," Stock said.

City Attorney Michael Colantuono responded by saying that the city's "power to regulate PUC [Public Utilities Commission] regulated utilities is quite limited."

Stock said the city should also investigate whether it could have any say in an upcoming Time Warner Cable project to construct mounted facilities to improve WiFi coverage.

"Exactly where the boundary of our power is with respect to Time Warner's project is something we will look into further," Colantuono said.

Martin said she'd rather hold off on voting until that issue is investigated, especially since the city has another year left on its moratorium.

"I don't see the rush after all these questions have come up from the community," she said.

Mayor Mary Sue Maurer assured everyone that "it's been a comprehensive process and we may need to strengthen it some more."

She said, "We've always revisited issues and we can do it sooner if needed."

The council will be in recess for the month of July. The next meeting will be on Aug. 8.

Steve June 29, 2012 at 05:00 AM
Thank you to Lucy Martin for her courage and true forward thinking to protect and support for all the citizens of Calabasas. To Fred "I never met a loophole I didn't like" Gaines, and the four other city council followers: Good luck putting the genie back in the bottle when some of these new tech fat cats manipulate and exploit the yawning gaps in this new ordinance to make millions of dollars more without regard to all who call Calabasas home.

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