Nevada City’s council foregoes 5G moratorium, will strengthen existing telecom ordinance | TheUnion.com

Nevada City’s council foregoes 5G moratorium, will strengthen existing telecom ordinance

A proposed moratorium by Nevada City on 5G wireless turned out to be a no-go, after the city’s attorneys advised the council members they could not legally impose one.

Nevada City’s council did expand its already existing wireless telecommunications ordinance, however, in order to establish control over wireless facilities on private land.

In February, council members approved an ordinance to limit putting small cell facilities on PG&E poles and other utility-company owned structures, and set “reasonable” limits on output to protect public health, safety and welfare. The ordinance established a three-tiered system for the approval of wireless telecommunications facilities based on size and location.

The city council subsequently asked staff to prepare an ordinance to make telecommunications regulations applicable citywide, not just in public right of ways. In a staff report, City Manager Catrina Olson noted consultant Rusty Monroe had drafted a draft ordinance that completely replaced the already existing ordinance, and expressed concern with the possible expense of starting over from scratch.

“As we learned … there are inefficiencies and extra expenses involved in having consultants, attorneys and council members all involved in the process without clear direction from the council on how to proceed and how aggressive it wants to be in its regulations,” the staff report stated.

Olson told the city council members at the April 24 meeting the intent is to fill in the existing gaps. The council could choose to either amend and add to the existing telecommunications regulations applicable to public right of ways that was previously adopted, to extend those regulations citywide, or totally replace the existing ordinance with a rewrite as recommended by Monroe.

During public comment, many of those in attendance expressed concerns about the potential health effects of the proliferation of wireless technology.

Resident John Lumiere-Wins told council members that Wi-Fi affects brains negatively, interfering with its pathways and causing irreversible damage.

“This stuff is dangerous,” he said. “It’s hurting people.”

Consulting attorney Scott Porter acknowledged the council’s desire to take an aggressive position, and will draft an amended ordinance and submit it for public comment well ahead of any scheduled public hearing.

5G cannot be prohibited, staff says

Staff also had been directed to bring to the council either an urgency ordinance regulating 5G networks, or a moratorium on applications for such 5G facilities until an ordinance could be prepared and adopted.

The staff report noted that because Nevada City previously adopted a moratorium on wireless facilities in the right of way, the city cannot now establish another interim ordinance affecting the same property.

“If the city were to adopt an urgency ordinance to totally prohibit 5G technology, such an ordinance would likely be challenged, and the city would bear substantial defense costs,” the staff report stated.

The report added, however, that any of the current designs of 5G facilities that would be placed on existing power poles would not meet the design guidelines approved by Nevada City, which would trigger a discretionary review that would allow location and aesthetics considerations.

While Nevada City cannot impose a moratorium, it can regulate 5G facilities in other ways, such as aesthetic concerns, Porter explained.

“The (amended wireless) ordinance we are working on will resolve these concerns,” he said. “I don’t see the need for an urgency ordinance.”

After hearing public comment from those in attendance who primarily wanted a moratorium, the council members agreed to not go forward with a separate urgency ordinance for 5G and instead work toward strengthening the current telecommunications ordinance.

No date has been set yet for the release of that draft.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.


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