The voted 4-1 during a special meeting Saturday to extend the city's moratorium on new wireless facilities as the latest draft of the wireless telecommunications ordinance undergoes further revisions.
The initial moratorium, enacted in 2011, expires on June 7. The extension buys the city another year to adopt a new ordinance, but council members say city staff would only need another month or two to implement some changes to the document that establishes new standards for the approval of cellphone towers and other similar facilities.
Mayor Pro Tem Fred Gaines cast the sole vote in opposition to the moratorium extension.
"To allow a moratorium again would continue to act as an excuse in not acting in a quick way," he said.
On April 25, council members recommended some additional revisions to the current draft of the wireless ordinance, which has already been reviewed by the city attorney, the Communications and Technology Commission and third-party attorney Andrew Campanelli.
One of the key elements of the document, as suggested by Campanelli, is that wireless providers must demonstrate a significant gap in coverage to be granted a permit for constructing a wireless facility anywhere in town, including residential areas and open space, and that the applicants would go about doing so by way of the least intrusive means.
The Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 establishes its own policies regulating cellphone tower policies and doesn't leave much power to local governments. So a city's outright denial of an application would make it easier for wireless providers to win an appeal in court, Campanelli said.
Instead, based on past court rulings, if providers fail to demonstrate a significant gap, it's highly unlikely a federal judge would overturn the city's decision to deny a wireless facility permit, he said.
"Federal courts do not want to become zoning boards of appeal," Campanelli told Patch.
But some residents say the city shouldn't fear litigation and follow Agoura Hills' wireless ordinance, which outright prohibits installing cellphone towers in various parts of the city. Agoura has not faced any legal challenges from wireless companies since adopting its ordinance last summer.
Last week, council members agreed to include language stating that the city would prefer applicants seek to install wireless facilities in commercial zones.
Council members also requested a "no dumping" clause, meaning that cellphone towers could not be installed in Calabasas if their sole purpose is to improve service coverage in neighboring communities.
Also to be included is new language that requires wireless providers to install their facilities underground whenever possible.
A new approval process for such facilities was also laid out. According to the ordinance, permit requests for installations in the public right-of-way and commercial zones can be granted by the Communications Technology Commission.
Council members unanimously agreed that applications for wireless facilities not in the public right-of-way and open space must first garner a recommendation from the commission, followed by final approval from the city council.
Councilman James Bozajian said adding an extra layer of approvals would make it more difficult for wireless companies be granted installation permits for those areas.
"It's a disincentive for them to apply," he said.