The deployment of 4G and 5G cell towers in Farragut continues to be a hot topic, with residents, Town attorney Tom Hale and Town administrator David Smoak weighing in on the issue near the end of the regular Feb. 13 Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.
Smoak, who had been asked to craft a resolution last month addressing concerns, said he and Hale have been working with state Sen. Dr. Richard Briggs (R-District 7) and state Rep. Jason Zachary (R-District 14) “helping them work up legislation regarding small cells.”
The legislators respectively introduced Senate Bill 2133 and House Bill 2150 earlier this month.
“The way state legislation has been enacted, many of our provisions are being trumped by state law,” Smoak said. “We will certainly be amending and putting in some provisions that hopefully will be helpful for Farragut.
“We are currently working with them on that.”
“We are trying to figure out ways where we can incorporate an amendment into the law, that will allow us to continue the regulations we have had in place,” Hale added.
“What we are trying to do is put back into the statute what is important to our community. I would love to be able to amend the state statute to say if a municipality prohibited above-ground utilities in residential areas, then they are allowed to continue to do that.
“That may be the kind of thing, where we would be arguably effectively prohibiting small cell coverage in certain areas.”
Sweet Briar resident Carol Christofferson, who has spoken against the matter several times in previous meetings, reiterated her position.
“We have not a pole in site (in our neighborhood),” she said. “We are, as a body, totally unhappy about the fact that Farragut and our little totally middle class, low technology demographic has been selected to be a guinea pig by the bully Verizon.
“We do not need or want 5G in our neighborhood. Right now, 4G is fine. … But in this country, you don’t get things rammed down your throat that you don’t need or don’t want. We don’t want it, and we are fighting it.
“I am somewhat heartened by what I have heard, and know you are doing your best, but you cannot let us down,” she added. “We rely on our Town officials to protect us; if there is a definition for protection against 5G, I can’t think of another one that is more important.
“The health issues — we don’t know what it is — but in terms of environmental, aesthetics and the politics of allowing a bully company to come in here and put that stuff in our neighborhood — we don’t want it.
“I don’t think I have anything new to add to the conversation, I’m just adding another voice,” Laura Fangman said. “We’re miserable. It’s a nightmare, as far as First World problems go.”
Resident Laura Squires, who has also spoken previously against the issue, asked about the “shot clock” time frame on the project.
“If you ask Verizon, they say the shot clock has already passed,” Hale said.
“Their position is, just so you will know, and we are going to get a letter, where they object to our conditions [specified during a Farragut Municipal Planning Commission meeting Jan. 16, during which 11 cell towers were approved, all with conditions].
“Their position is that all matters should be worked out with staff and the Planning Commission should not be reviewing these things. No other municipality in the state of Tennessee has their planning commission review this.
“I’ve been told [this] by two lawyers from Verizon — [that] everyone else approves them administratively.
“We will litigate with them if we have to litigate with them, but I’m not going to litigate in public,” Hale said.
“This is what we are working on,” Vice Mayor Louise Povlin said. “I hear your concerns and I share them. That is the reason we [as the FMPC] voted because we wanted something in writing.
“If they are telling us state law says we can’t do that, well, lets figure out what we can do.”