Surprise cell tower talk has dozens

Suprising some Town of Farragut officials with their attendance at a Farragut Municipal Planning Commission meeting because their issue wasn’t on the agenda, dozens gathered to voice, or support, objections to 5G cell towers being placed in neighborhoods.

“We need your protection,” Farragut resident Laura Squires said during the meeting Thursday, Feb. 20, in Town Hall. “Almost anything asked of you about 5G, you say you are powerless because it is regulated by state law and federal law. I understand that.”

However, she countered there are things the Commission could do. For instance, Squires asked the Commission to notify citizens when a new tower deployment request is received by (the Commission).

Vice Mayor Louise Povlin, also a commissioner, and Chairman Rita Holladay said requests always are listed on its agenda, under “utilities.”

Squires was one of several people who waited for about two and a half hours through training workshops on the Town’s sign ordinance and Comprehensive Land Use Plan. The “citizens forum,” usually the first on the agenda, was moved to the end, at call, so FMPC members could get in the training.

“Not everyone has a clue that the right-of-way attached to their front yard is about to be invaded by 5G antennae … I would like to ask that the (Commission) publicly notify residents ... with a sign posted on the properties,” Squires added.

He asked the Commission to vote on her requests.

Two residents said if their neighbors had not told them about the 5G antennas, they would not have known about it and voiced their concerns about the health effects associated with the antennas.

“Children are especially sensitive,” resident Kate Flores said.

“I know you all feel that you are bound by law, but I’m telling you I think you have the legal right to protect your citizens, and, you can refuse to do something you believe is illegal,” Sonja Drive resident Dava Shoffner said.

“I understand – I don’t want this (5G towers) as a resident,” Povlin said, but pointed out “we exist as a municipality because the state allows us to exist.

“We don’t have a choice. We follow the laws, whether we like them or not.

“I don’t know why Verizon picked us,” Povlin added. “I find it unfathomable that they would write a law that the local government can’t even know what the big plan is. So, if you don’t think I’m pissed off … I helped write the first telecommunication ordinance that we put in place to protect our residential areas, and they gutted it.

“I am angry, but I also have to obey the law; so, we are working through our legal channels to see what we can do,” she said. “We’re upset about this, too.”

“I want everyone to know that you’re preaching to the choir,” Planning Commissioner Rose Ann Kile said but added, “We do have to abide by what our attorney leads us to.”

“Dropping the service would be quicker than the legislative process,” Farragut resident Terry Sharp said.

Shoffner chastised the Commission for the two-and-a-half hour delay on the Citizens’ Forum.

“A lot of us came here at 7 o’clock expecting to be first on the agenda, get our say said and get out of here,” she said. “You kept all these people waiting.”

“One of the things we have to do is we have to get this training in,” Williams said. “If I had had 50 or 60 people stand up and spend five minutes talking, we would not have gotten this (training) in tonight.

“If people want to stay and talk, hey, we will be here as long as you want to take,” he added.

In other business, FMPC:

• Reviewed, but took no action on, amendments to its sign ordinance, which included cleaning up, clarifying and addressing language pertaining to signs with a message, such as a church sign.

The amendment was prompted by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, based on the First Amendment, that municipalities could not regulate messages.

“We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Farragut Community Development director Mark Shipley said about the updates . “Most of the physical parameters are pretty much the same … to maintain long-standing standards (but) hopefully we have clarified language to make it easier.”

• Reviewed, but took no action on, the Town’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, during which Shipley reviewed actions taken since the plan was enacted in 2012 to make it a “dynamic” document, such as creating the maps, updating areas where there still are undeveloped properties and using the map when making zoning decisions.