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Council wants more comment on cellular tower ordinance

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / April 6, 1998

CONVENT – Cellular towers topped the agenda at Wednesday’s meeting of the St. James Parish Council, but the group tabled the matter to hear morepublic comment before taking action on regulating tower construction.

At a public hearing on an ordinance proposed to regulate tower construction, Gilroy Huguet of Convent angrily denounced BellSouth Mobility, which had a tower built within 100 feet of his home.

Piledriver pounding reportedly caused damage to his house, including sheetrock cracking.

“We can’t even open our attic door to see what happened up there,” said his wife, Brenda.

The Huguets’ distress was matched by Parish Council chairman Timmy Roussel, who told BellSouth attorney Jeff Schoen, “I resent the fact I never received one phone call to explain themselves. I know I resent it,and it wasn’t even my house.”Schoen, in response, said BellSouth and its contractor, Boh Brothers Construction, got all necessary permits for the construction of the tower near the Huguets’ River Road home.

Boh, he said, was “actively investigating” the Huguets’ claims.

On the other hand, Huguet said, an attorney for Boh Brothers has denied all their claims of damage.

Richard Burton, also of Convent, said he has already been approached to allow a tower near his property. He added he’s turned them down flat.Pat Melancon of Convent asked the Parish Council to take more time for public comment and to craft a good ordinance to adequately control this construction.

Melancon added she was disappointed to learn the Parish Council had been unaware of the construction until it was an accomplished fact.

“You’re the first line of defense that we have,” she said. “It concerns methat you didn’t know before Mr. Huguet came before you.”The proposed ordinance requires a parish permit for installation of the tower, that no new tower would be permitted within 3,000 feet of an existing tower and that one be set back from any residence by a distance of 100 percent of the tower’s height.

Melancon asked the Parish Council to consider amending that to 150 percent of the tower’s height as a further safeguard.

“Hurricane season is so close,” Huguet added. “What do I do now?”Tim Kirkpatrick, an attorney representing Sprint, suggested a delay to further mold the ordinance to everyone’s satisfaction.

Roussel further commented, “How come the people wanting to help us mold this ordinance are not willing to help mold these people’s house back together?” Parish Councilman Eric Poche, in whose district the tower was built, added, “Just to be a good neighbor, they should’ve talked to the residents.”The matter was tabled for further review and to gather public comment at the next meeting April 15 in Convent.

In other activity, a presentation was made by Dietmar Rietschier, executive director of the Amite River Basin Drainage and Water Conservation District.

He made available to the public copies of the district’s new flood tracking chart. The Amite River floodplain touches upon St. James Parish’snortheast corner.

The chart includes emergency telephone numbers, historical flood data for the region and suggestions for dealing with a flood situation.

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