Meetings to resume soon?

While some residents want to resume in-person Town meetings, especially about 5G matters, leaders point to July

Though virtual government meetings in Farragut have been a bit of a sore spot for residents wishing to speak out, most notably about the ongoing issues pertaining to 5G towers in Farragut, Town officials have yet to resume in-person meetings.

Mayor Ron Williams said last week the decision to open up public meetings “are up to the discretion of the municipalities. Both Knoxville and Knox County have much larger facilities than we do, and are able to social distance, and I just don’t feel comfortable with that right now.

“We do have plans to start back in July, and will be meeting at the Community Center,” he added, remarking on the continuous cleaning and disinfection currently ongoing there.

Because of the size of the Boardroom at Town Hall, and also because that room is carpeted and features upholstered chairs, Williams noted the potential for some difficulty in keeping those items clean, along with not being able to properly maintain social distancing, and that the Board Room already operates with limited capacity due to fire marshal codes.

“I don’t know if we will be meeting in the Board Room (at Town Hall) for the rest of the year,” he added.

Though residents have been encouraged to submit comments in writing, which are then read into the minutes, several residents want to pursue the issues of 5G only during in-person meetings.

Last week, 25 pages of citizens comments relating to different items on the Town’s June 18 Municipal Planning Commission’s agenda were submitted for consideration, many in reference to agenda item No. 9, “discussion of the development of an aesthetic plan for new vertical utility infrastructure within public rights of ways.”

Community Development Director Mark Shipley took the Commission through a 48--page powerpoint to get discussion started on crafting a plan and ultimately an ordinance that would govern the aesthetics of proposed 4G and 5G cell towers.

(The powerpoint can be found on the Town of Farragut website as well as here.)

He was very clear in explaining the powerpoint “is not an aesthetic plan. It is a power point of discussion items to be considered” as the Town moves forward.

Several residents requested via e-mails and phone calls to postpone it until live meetings could resume, but Williams, Vice Mayor Louise Povlin and others in the community agreed it would remain.

Povlin said the item was “not only for our discussion purposes only, but also will only concern aesthetics, and, furthermore, public input will be gathered in at least three more public meetings,” she wrote in an email.

During last week’s meeting, she also said she had “the full support of the Sweet Briar neighborhood’s Home Owner’s Association” to get started on crafting the ordinance.

“I believe with this powerpoint and this discussion we are having tonight we now have our stake in the ground, and can take our time to get this right.”

Addressing 5G, “There are a lot of angry folks in Farragut,” Povlin said. “We received a lot of angry, and in some cases, very disrespectful e-mails. I get it — the Town of Farragut has been rendered impotent to stop this assault on our neighborhoods by a state law that completely removes local control over most aspects of implementation of 5G.

“I did not pass this law, yet I am continuously assaulted for its results. I am angry too,” she added.

“In essence; The Tennessee General Assembly does not care what we think at the local level regarding the implementation of 5G small cell technology.”

The general synopsis is as follows: the state law governing the deployment of potential support structures, and small cell, forbids a city from dictating the placement of a PSS, forbids a city from limiting the distance between a PSS; forbids us from requiring colocation, such as on an existing utility pole, further, a city may not dictate or alter the design from a provider’s network, or limit the number of different carriers in the community.

“I am very frustrated with the utter disrespect people seem to want to show through their e-mails,” Povlin said. “I did not put this in place, (but) I am stuck trying to deal with something that is assaulting people I represent, and I’m angry about it and frustrated that there is a group of people who are enjoying whipping people up unnecessarily, telling untruth, and misleading people.

“It it is not right. This is hard enough, and emotional enough as it is,” she added.

“We need to work on the things we can deal with and this and this aesthetic plan is one of the them.”