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Council Votes on Wireless Ordinance Tonight

The Calabasas City Council will vote on the document designed to regulate the placement of cellphone towers in the community at an April 25 meeting.

The Calabasas City Council will vote on this item at its 6 p.m. inside City Hall. What do you think about this issue? Share your opinion in the comments section below.

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The final draft of an updated ordinance aimed at establishing stricter regulations for the approval of cellphone towers in Calabasas was released by the city on Wednesday, but some residents are saying there's a loophole in the document that needs to be amended.

The wireless telecommunications ordinance, which the will vote on at its April 25 meeting, establishes certain guidelines for wireless providers such as limiting wireless facilities to at least 1,000 feet from residential areas, schools and parks.

But wireless providers could be exempt from that language if they could demonstrate a significant gap in coverage, according to the ordinance.

Andrew Campanelli, a New York-based attorney hired by the city as a consultant to help revise the ordinance, says providing eligibility for an exemption would prevent City Hall from dealing with litigation.

He said the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 affords cities the right to deny cellphone tower permits if wireless providers fail to demonstrate a significant gap in coverage instead of flat out rejecting such permit requests; a type language that some cities, such as Agoura Hills, have adopted.

The proposed ordinance for Calabasas calls for applicants, as well as residents, to provide evidence of a significant gap by way of providing records of call tests. Based on that evidence, the Communications and Technology Commission would vote whether to grant a permit, Campanelli said.

If the city denies a cellphone tower permit based on evidence that fails to demonstrate a significant gap in coverage, a judge is unlikely to overturn that decision, Campanelli said.

"It would be unlikely that a federal judge would have a new fact finding determination," Campanelli said. "Federal courts do not want to become zoning boards of appeal."

Some local residents, however, said the city should not fear threats of litigation because other communities, like Agoura Hills, have adopted wireless ordinances that prohibit cellphone towers in certain areas.

Agoura Hills' wireless ordinance restricts cellphone towers from being installed in the "public right-of-way of collector roadways as identified in the general plan" or "any location on or near a ridgeline such that the facility would appear silhouetted against the sky."

Agoura Hills' ordinance has been in place since last September, and Allison Cook, the community's principal planner, said the city has not faced any legal action yet.

That's reason enough for some Calabasas residents to add similar restrictions.

"This proposed ordinance appears to written based on fear of litigation as opposed to sound planning and priorities for infrastructure expansions in the city of Calabasas," wrote resident Norman Buehring, president of the Community Association of Saratoga Hills.

Other residents have circulated an identical letter to the city, calling for the city to prevent wireless providers from installing cellphone towers in open space and along ridgelines.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on whether to adopt the new ordinance on April 25.

Carol Elliott April 25, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Tonight's decision will be a definitive referendum on just where each of the City Council members stand on whether they truly want to serve the needs and rights of their constituents or not! To protect open space or not! To protect residential areas or not!
Liat Samouhi April 25, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Scott, To turn this into whether or not one favors more coverage or more restrictions, as I see it, is misleading. I myself enjoy the benefits of my iPhone as do my neighbors. First off, the City is not in the business of providing cell phone coverage. The carriers are. The City's job is to not prohibit the provision of wireless facilties in a manner that is consistent with its plans and purpose for preservation of its land uses. And, that is a balance that can be struck. I understand your frustration with your drive from your house to all the way down Parkway Calabasas until you're within sight of the 101. My understanding, once again, is that when proposals for installions within the public right of way in your area (outside of gated communities) were made, your neighbors fought them. I do not believe that such installations are prohibited there nor are we proposing that they be.
Steve April 25, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Well said Carol.
ChangeatCalabasasCityHall April 25, 2012 at 08:47 PM
"Tonight's decision will be a definitive referendum on just where each of the City Council members stand on whether they truly want to serve the needs and rights of their constituents or not! To protect open space or not! To protect residential areas or not!" - well said! ...all the campaign promises....kept or not? The question is not can they do it (which they surely will be told they cannot). The question is will they do it. Agoura Hills did it. Are they not governed by the same state and federal laws as Calabasas? Read their staff responses to CALWA and AT&T posted on the City website!!!! Tonight's definitive referendum will be turned to to when the next batch of campaign promises are made!
Liat Samouhi April 25, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Scott, nice to see you here as well. What I am saying is that coverage and preservation of land use can go hand in hand. To say that it is either or is to try to instill fear in people that they will not have coverage if our City exercises its power and responsibility to ensure that the deployment of the technology is done so in a reasonable, rational and organized manner. That is what high school students apparently are being told by coaches who also serve as leaders, I am told. To encourage people to come to City Hall to complain about their coverage is not only disingenuous but also not what the ordinance is about. Again, the strong presumption is against prohibiting or having the effect of prohibiting the provision of wireless service within our City. Preservation of land uses as pertains to the placement of these facilities is what is being considered in doing that. "ubiquitous" cellular coverage is not what the city is required to permit. While it may choose to in some cases for economic growth, especially in its commercial districts, it is not required to under federal law. Year after year, proposal after proposal, when carriers have attempted to place their infrastructure within, adjacent or in close proximity to residential areas including their surrounding open space residents and/or entire communities have unanimously and unequivocally opposed them. Calabassa offers its residents many advantages which seem to override that of "ubiquitous" coverage.

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