Terrebonne Parish is worried about new, 40-foot utility poles that have begun popping up across the parish, some in residential areas.

Parish Council members and AT&T debated the use and necessity of the poles at tonight’s council meeting.

The company currently holds about 30 permits to build the new poles. About 21 of them have been built; 17 of them are in residential areas.

The poles are part of the company’s initiative to expand 5G capacity in the area.

Several council members said they’ve received complaints about the poles, which were put up on public right of ways without notice to the adjoining landowners.

The number of new poles AT&T plans to erect will depend on network demand, company representatives said. The new poles have not been energized yet and are not operating, so customers won’t notice a difference in service yet, AT&T representatives said.

As the number of devices increases in areas, the networks become increasingly congested and slow down service. The new poles aim to increase the network capacity, differing from the larger cell towers that increase the network’s coverage area.

The new poles only service a 700-foot area. That coverage area caused further concern that one day, hundreds of large poles will litter the parish.

The council passed ordinances making way for these new poles in March, but many members said they did not realize the poles would be so large, and so visible in residential areas.

The ordinance does include language that the poles must match the look of neighborhoods, Planning and Zoning Director Chris Pulaski said.

“Make it look like a palm tree or something, you know, do something with it,” Councilman Dirk Guidry said.

Parish President Gordy Dove said the parish would not issue any more permits and will present the council with a revised ordinance to prevent any further construction.

Permits that have already been issued cannot be rescinded without AT&T’s cooperation, parish attorney Jules Hebert said.

“We need to limit was these structures look like,” Councilman Darrin Guidry said. “This is not what I thought I was approving.”

Dove said he didn’t envision the poles to be so large, either.

AT&T representatives said they wanted to work with the parish, but noted they have already made a large investment in the project. A representative said they would work with the parish to consider relocating the poles that have been permitted, but not yet built.

So far, AT&T is the only company to apply for these permits, Pulaski said.

The ordinance does allow for, and encourage, different utility companies to share poles, with lesser fees for companies to install on an existing pole, he said.

Dove also announced tonight that the parish will no longer require residents to fill their own sandbags during emergency events.

The parish is currently stockpiling 60,000 pre-filled bags through the use of Terrebonne Parish work release inmates.

“You pay tax dollars, you shouldn’t have to go out there and shovel sand,” Dove said.

During a storm, the pre-filled bags will be delivered to the normal locations. The parish is also using a new type of bag that is designed to last up to four years. This will allow residents to reuse bags, Dove said.

So far, the parish has 20,000 bags filled in storage.

Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or julia.arenstam@houmatoday.com. Follow her on Twitter at @JuliaArenstam.