The Marysville City Council passed an ordinance and approved a series of resolutions related to the installation of small cell wireless facilities on city poles.

The ordinance allows for facilities in the public right-of-way. The resolutions amended the fee schedule to establish a $90 reservation fee, approved the procedures for the installation of small cell facilities in the right-of-way, and approved a master lease agreement with AT&T to locate facilities within the city.

Prior to a public hearing, the council received information about the facilities and the impact of 5G deployment during a 30-minute workshop. Marysville resident Stephanie McKenzie represented community members concerned about the health impacts of 5G. She cited the frequencies from 5G being harmful to people and the environment.

“The city could be exposing itself to lawsuits if they aren’t cautious about how this is done,” McKenzie said. “... This is a public health issue.”

Professional Engineer Bill Hammett with Hammett and Edison, Inc. said his firm measures the radio frequency exposure conditions for carriers, cities and landlords. He provided an overview of the standards set by the federal government when it comes to radio frequency as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. He said the standards have been updated since 1996 and that the city cannot stop a small cell facility from being installed on the basis of environmental impacts if the facility complies with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) standards.

“This is really current science,” Hammett said.

He responded to McKenzie’s claims about the safety of small cell facilities and 5G. He cited the Food and Drug Administration that said in 2018 that, “There is no quantifiable causal link between RFR (radio frequency radiation) exposure and tumor formation.”

Hammett said the small cell facilities are low power facilities that sit atop poles at two feet tall and are the width of a page. They focus energy down and based on the laws of physics, the already low power exponentially decreases the further it gets from a facility. He said 5G is the latest technique for encoding data onto radio waves and is nothing out of the ordinary.

“There’s nothing dangerous about 5G per say, it’s just a coding technique,” Hammett said.

City Contract Planner Kathy Pease introduced the items the council would be considering.

“Small cell facilities include equipment needed to provide cell phone telecommunications coverage in the area,” Pease said.

By adopting the ordinance, Pease said the city would be able to control where facilities are placed in the city and monitor them to make sure they remain in compliance. The lease agreement fee is for $270 per year per pole with a 3 percent yearly adjustment. The city would keep track of where small cell facilities are installed and allow them to be installed five locations at a time, Pease said.

Three members of the public made comments in opposition to the ordinance. In response to a question from Vice Mayor Bruce Buttacavoli, Hammett said as an example that Oracle Park in San Francisco is filled with small cell facilities that allow people to use 5G while remaining within the federal standards and therefore not impacting those in attendance.

Councilman Dom Belza pointed out that if the city did not pass an ordinance, carriers still would have the right to install small cell facilities on poles in the city that are owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Company and on other non city owned poles. By passing the ordinance the city would be able to have some control.

“If we don’t create the policy that we’re looking at here, then we’re not doing what we’re elected to do,” Belza said.

Mayor Chris Branscum said frequencies from technology like WiFi are a fact of life and the standards set by federal agencies take into account safety.

“I’ve not seen evidence to support the concerns but I still understand the concerns. I respect the concerns ... I believe this is safe,” Branscum said.


In other business:

– As part of the consent calendar the city council formally adopted the 2021-2029 housing element based on revisions from the State Housing and Community Development Department (HCD).

The council approved the housing element on Aug. 17 during a public hearing and directed staff to submit the document to the state for the required 90-day review. HCD provided comments requesting revisions. The proposed changes were minor, according to a staff report.

The changes included a menu of possible options the city could implement to meet anti-displacement measures including rent stabilization and just cause evictions; and adding language in several other areas in the “Implementation Strategies” section to clarify that the programs would be implemented.

“It is anticipated with the attached revisions, HCD will be able to amend the non-compliance status and issue the city a compliance letter,” the staff report read.

The next city council meeting will take place on Dec. 7 at 6 p.m.

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