5G

With 5G rollout, Moorpark tries to devise game plan to address residents’ concerns

The rollout of 5G small cell towers has Moorpark officials exploring what little they can do to manage the installation in residential neighborhoods given tight federal restrictions.

For several months, residents have been voicing opposition to the city about the placement of towers near homes.

The concerns were sparked by the November installation of a small cell tower mere feet from Nicole and Robert Golden’s backyard where their children play.

Fifth-generation – or 5G – is the next generation of wireless technology that has been launched by wireless carriers such as AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. It is much faster than 4G but requires more wireless installations and a greater density of them.

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The Federal Communications Commission strictly limits local control over small wireless facilities, whether on private property or in the public right of way.

Even so, after listening to residents again express concerns at a special meeting Wednesday night, the City Council directed staff to see if there is anything that can be done, in keeping with the federal regulatory framework, about the deployment of small wireless facilities near homes, city spokesman Brian Chong said Friday.

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Currently, for instance, a city ordinance states three preferences for where it would like to see the facilities go, said Chong, assistant to City Manager Troy Brown.

They are, in order of preference: nonresidential zones; 250 feet or more from a residential zone; or if all else fails, residential zones, Chong said.

One of the things staff could look into is whether the council wants to add more stated preferences to the ordinance, he said. Agoura Hills, Chong noted, has 10 such preferences.

“So, the (Moorpark) council could say, ‘Well, if it’s going be in a residential zone, we prefer a narrow street rather than a wider street. Or we want it away from parks, away from schools,'” he said.

Telecommunications providers can override the preferences if they can demonstrate that a site can only be located there to complete their network, Chong said.

“So, it likely would not have a significant preventive effect in where they go,” he said. “It is not going to stop the deployment of cell sites in residential zones.”

Nonetheless, “it’s not completely a lost cause,” Chong said.

He noted there was a previous instance in which AT&T wanted to install a wireless facility next to an elementary school.

“And the city said, ‘Hey, doesn’t it make more sense to go a couple 100 feet away in (a) shopping center area?'” Chong said. “And AT&T said, ‘Yeah, we can still make it work’ and did it voluntarily.”

The council also wants to schedule a closed session with City Attorney Kevin Ennis and private attorney Steven Flower, a telecommunications law specialist, to discuss possible legal options, Chong said. Flower gave a presentation at Wednesday night’s town hall meeting.

The forum was scheduled after residents, led by the Goldens, expressed their concerns during public comments at the City Council’s Dec. 15 meeting.

Nicole Golden said Friday that AT&T’s 4G/5G small cell tower is less than 15 feet from where her children play in the backyard.

She said her chief concern is safety, contending the tower isn’t installed properly.

“It waves and shakes in the wind,” she said. “It’s right above the kids, so if it does fall, it could hit them or anybody else actually.”

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Also, the tower is in the middle of some trees and presents a fire hazard, Golden said.

“If it malfunctions, the house will go up like a matchbox,” she said.

Golden, along with 12 other speakers, addressed the council at Wednesday’s night’s meeting.

“I am the first resident that has a cell located 14 feet from their children’s heads and 43 feet from their bedroom window,” Golden said. “There are other locations the cell (tower) can be relocated away from the front and back yards.

“But AT&T did not do their due diligence to find a non-residential location,” she said.

Other speakers cited health concerns about the small cell towers, which emit radiofrequency energy.

Julie Levine, who has started a group called 5G Free California, said the towers are “incredibly harmful” to the health of people at small distances.

The wireless communications industry, however, says such concerns are unfounded.

“The FCC says it’s perfectly safe,” Mayor Janice Parvin said.

Chong noted the 1996 Telecommunications Act says local governments, when issuing permits for cell facility sites, cannot consider any health or environmental impacts from radio frequency emissions as long as the facilities comply with FCC regulations.

Even so, Nicole Golden said she felt heartened by Wednesday night’s meeting.

“The fact that they talked about having a discussion about this behind closed doors and they talked about rewriting the ordinance, I think is a huge win,” she said.

She said she hopes the city adds more preferred locations like Agoura Hills has.

“That is the ordinance we would like to mimic,” she said.

Parvin thanked the residents who attended the meeting.

“We appreciate your input,” she said. “It’s really valuable to us as we deliberate what next steps we’re going to take.”

Chong said AT&T representatives declined an invitation to attend the special meeting.

AT&T Public Affairs Director Ryan Minniear did not respond Friday to a request for comment.

Mike Harris covers the East County cities of Moorpark, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, as well as transportation countywide. You can contact him at mike.harris@vcstar.com or 805-437-0323.

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Currently, for instance, a city ordinance states three preferences for where it would like to see the facilities go, said Chong, assistant to City Manager Troy Brown.

Source: https://www.vcstar.com/story/news/local/communities/moorpark/2022/02/26/moorpark-5-g-concerns-ventura-county/6880452001/

Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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