By 5-0 vote, city council votes for 5G AT&T small cell antennas in Elk Grove

Small  5G cell phone installations like this will soon appear in Elk Grove. | 

After an almost three hour hearing, the Elk Grove City Council voted 5-0 for an ordinance allowing for placement of so-called 5G small cell antennas throughout the city. 5G is the latest generation of cell phone technology and is promoted as expanding cell phone coverage and providing faster data transfer.

The vote in favor of the ordinance came after the city council heard almost three dozen speakers offering an array of concerns. Many speakers expressed concerned about adverse health effects, especially on children. 

While most speakers expressed concern, there was a handful in support of the new technology. Much of that support was framed as public safety enhancements. 

One of the speakers in opposition to the ordinance was Elk Grove resident Mark Graham. A fixture at city council meetings for the last two years, Graham has consistently expressed concerns on the health effects of the technology and has urged the city council to use their authority to address these and other considerations. 

During his comments, Graham pushed back on assertions by Elk Grove Vice Mayor Pat Hume who referenced advise from city attorney Jonathan Hobbs. 

"It is apparent that at least one member of the council, with all due respect to Councilmember Hume, has been misled by the city attorney as to the extent and scope of the city's power to regulate cell antennas and where that line is between your powers and the federal preemption," he said. 

During his presentation, Hobbs told the city council that beyond things like aesthetics, they had limited regulatory authority. Following comments from one speaker who urged the city to be cognitive of the possible health effects of the technology, Hume reiterated the municipality has limited jurisdiction. 

"We cannot regulate health concerns as per the FCC," Hume said. "If that is the only argument bringing to this podium, that we have no power to do anything about that."

Hume added that "there are things that we can regulate and control and those are the things we tried to address in this ordinance, we cannot use health as a reason."

As adopted, the ordinance will require cell phone providers in certain instances, such as residential and agricultural-residential areas to have zoning administrator approval, but in certain areas, such as industrial areas will not require review. Certain areas such as commercial and mixed-used will require planning commission review.

Additionally, the antennas cannot be installed in front of homes, can be no closer than 500 feet, and antenna equipment cannot exceed 28 cubic feet.

Throughout their deliberations, the city council stressed they have limited authority, and they worked on crafting a compromise in an attempt to balance the conflicting needs of constituents and the major telecoms. They also claimed AT&T was unhappy with the ordinance.

After complimenting Graham for his advocacy, Councilmember Stephanie Nguyen noted that the telecoms were unpleased with the ordinance. 

"Verizon is not in love with this agreement, and I know AT&T wasn't necessarily happy with it," she said. "And while both sides can't be happy, or is not happy, I think our Vice Mayor had said this once, 'we didn't make anyone happy, so I think we did our job.'"

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