Several residents speak against 5G cell towers in nearly 5-hour FMPC meeting

Village Green resident Jerry Guthrie presented a graphic noting potential health hazards from proposed 5G cell towers during the Thursday, Jan. 16, Farragut Municipal Planning Commission meeting. Guthrie was one of nearly 20 residents who spoke against the applications for 11 towers to be placed in Town limits.
For nearly five hours Thursday, Jan. 16, Farragut Municipal Planning Commission discussed and listened to debate regarding 11 proposed small cell support structures to be placed in Town limits.

In the end, however, state and federal laws effectively allowing telecommunication companies to be treated as other utilities tied the hands of Commissioners, who reluctantly voted to approve all 11 applications from Towersource, a subcontractor for Verizon/MCI.

Seven will support the latest 5G technology, and four will support 4G antennas.

Although each application had a list of “subject-tos,” and Commissioners did ask for certain considerations — including relocation of two of the towers due to road safety concerns — there are no guarantees Towersource will comply.

“We can ask to do something different, but we can’t require it,” Community Development director Mark Shipley said.

All are to be located in public rights-of-way, with four in residential neighborhoods — Stonecrest, Farragut View and Cove at Turkey Creek — and the other seven in various locations along Kingston Pike, Campbell Station Road and Parkside Drive.

The night began with Town attorney Tom Hale’s workshop, before a nearly full Town Hall boardroom, regarding the state and federal legalities. “Historically, utilities have been regulated differently than any other entity, mostly because of the large investment (they) make in infrastructure,” he said.

Hale said a Federal Communications Commission ruling in 2018 effectively set the course for 5G placement In 2018, the state moved to supported that directive.

“We are required to treat it as any other utility,” he said. “However, historically, Farragut has required that utilities come before the Planning Commission for (project) approval,” which he said might give the Town limited leeway.

“In the past, you have required some utility placement underground, for example. And you may require them to follow an aesthetic plan. But, from my understanding, you are not in a position to do anything other than comply.”

“Basically, our hands are tied,” Commissioner Noah Myers said.

Safety was the top concern.

“I have been a health professional for over 50 years, and I did finally find something written by a Harvard PhD who said these types of (emission)] are harmful in more than one way and cited thousands of articles in peer review journals,” said Dava Shoffner, one of nearly 20 residents who spoke against the structures. “The burden or proof is on the provider, and they have not done it.”

“Many of these (towers) will be close to areas near many of our children,” Jennifer Parker said. “Why not put them out near the cemetery, or the horse farm?”

Jerry Guthrie of Village Green brought a visual depicting the potential damage caused electromagnetic emissions generated by 5G.

“The 30 gigahertz generated by 5G can do biological damage to your cells,” Guthrie said. “Scientific studies have been done, but the FCC, the government and the utilities have done no studies.”

Resident Mike Mitchell also spoke (see Letters to Editor-5G starting on Opinion page 4A).

“I am very nervous and we need to talk to our state legislators. I am concerned about having any more than one carrier in our community ....,” said Vice Mayor Louise Povlin, also a Commissioner.

“The idea we will have even two carriers, with the amount of poles needed to support that, is very distressing … I’m very frustrated we have so little we can say or do about this,” she added. “So I know this really needs to come from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, and work with David (Smoak, Town administrator) and work with our legislators — but it can’t stay the way it is.”