Nevada City moves forward on 5G wireless regulations months after deadline |

Nevada City moves forward on 5G wireless regulations months after deadline

John Orona
Staff Writer

Months after an April Federal Communications Commission deadline, Nevada City has moved forward on 5G wireless telecom facility regulations, despite concerns from the public and its mayor.

Although the city has only gotten through the public hearing stage, the design of the regulations is anticipated to be the most difficult part and now a second reading and final vote are needed before its passage.

Last October, the planning commission began the process of regulating the new wireless technology and recommended the council take up the matter. Since then, the city has been slow to act on the regulations, with the city recommending staff take no action in April and some say leaving itself open to potential litigation.

“I’m not really willing to wait any longer on this,” Nevada City council member Duane Strawser said. “It would be irresponsible to.”


The wireless facilities will have to go through a conditional use permit process, which includes a public hearing, unless it is for what is considered a small wireless facility, or if the facility will be equipped to existing telecom equipment that will not need substantial modification — in which case it will only require administrative review.

Facilities permitted for an existing support structure will need to match the design and color of that structure and new facilities will need to be erected at least 90 feet away from any existing light pole.

The ordinance also includes provisions for permitting multiple telecom facilities in a single application, with either a master deployment plan permit (for five or more facility proposals) or a batched application (for fewer than five facility proposals).

Applicants for batched permits will only be allowed four of such applications in a 30-day period and must wait at least seven days between permits.

The ordinance will require applicants to hold a “balloon test” or story pole prior to the public hearing on that application in order to inform the public of the potential facility site. This involves a brightly colored balloon on the proposed site informing the public of the proposed facility details.

Applicants will also need to notify all residents within 1,500 feet of the proposed construction of the date and times of the balloon test at least 14 days prior to its start.

The city specifically encourages construction in industrial and commercial zones, discourages wireless facilities in the Scenic Corridor Combining District and especially discourages facilities in the 7-Hills Business District, residential zones and the historical combining district.


The city’s hands were tied in the crafting of the ordinance, but it was written to give the city maximum autonomy over regulating the facilities, according to the city’s consulting attorney Baron Bettenhausen.

“The FCC has limited our ability to review when it comes to environmental impacts, unfortunately it’s one of the areas that they’ve taken away from local authority,” Bettenhausen said. “When we drafted this ordinance we gave the council as much authority as it could have, but we are limited to asking that they comply with what the federal government requires. The FCC has taken it upon itself to determine health and safety impacts of the equipment used.”

The FCC also mandated “shot clocks” that stipulate no more than a 60-day review period for collocation of small wireless facilities and 90-day review period for construction of new small wireless facilities. The commission also declared that any attempt to “materially inhibit” facility development constitutes an “effective prohibition.”

“In all my trips down to the state I do know that the FCC is not meant to protect us, they’ve made that clear,” Strawser said. “They are there to only manage and control, and they’ve made it very clear even though we assume they should protect us.”


Community members said the new technology would pose a risk to the health of residents and told the council, during a public comment period last week, it would stall for more time to study the effects of 5G and any potential harm it might cause.

Mayor Reinette Senum claimed she contracted hives from the exposures to 5G technology.

“I don’t want to be part of our extinction,” Senum said, who voted against the ordinance. “‘I’m seeing a decline in the health of our trees, a decline in the population of our pollinators and birds — this is not by accident, this is because of the toxic soup we have created for ourselves. I’m not willing to participate and I’m going to draw a line.”

The lone voice of support from the public came from Michael Anderson, owner of a Nevada City technology company.

“5G is a business driver and good luck trying to stop it,” Anderson said. “This is all science. I really strongly encourage this council to go with the science, debate the science and don’t let yourselves get caught up in conspiracy theories because that’s not science.”

Contact Staff Writer John Orona at or 530-477-4229.

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