Council May 18 set to revisit siting of 5G wireless facilities; discuss housing, trees and transportation

A utility worker installs a typical small cell wireless station in Sacramento, Calif. (Photo courtesy Verizon)

In what looks to be a very busy evening, the Edmonds City Council at its Tuesday, May 18 meeting is scheduled to tackle several major items, including the first of four discussions on a topic that became a flashpoint for residents two years ago: the siting of 5G wireless facilities in the city.

According to a background document on the matter, the council on Tuesday night will begin considering the master permit application by New Cingular Wireless for small cell facilities that may, either initially or at some point in the future, provide 5G technology in Edmonds. To place facilities in the city’s rights-of-way, all providers need a master permit for general permission, plus a wireless facilities permit for specific installations that follows the provisions of city code.

In April 2019, the council unanimously approved an ordinance governing the aesthetics of small cell wireless facilities in the city’s right of way; however, federal regulations don’t allow local or state governments to prohibit their installation altogether.

As noted in a previous story, the wireless industry wants to install the small cells to provide new, faster 5G technology for its customers.

The council’s approved ordinance includes a direction that all 5G equipment be concealed inside a hollow steel power pole. Reinforcing the council’s concern about possible unknown health issues surrounding the 5G technology, the ordinance also includes a requirement that small cell wireless facilities include safety warning signs. A week prior to passing that ordinance, the council on March 26, 2019 unanimously approved a resolution patterned after one passed by the City of Portland, Ore. that requested the federal government update older studies to address potential health risks of 5G radio frequency (RF) emissions and publish those findings.

On Dec. 4, 2019, the FCC issued a new RF Order stating that existing RF exposure limits should remain unchanged.

The City of Portland, along with dozens of other local governments, also filed a lawsuit against the FCC regarding local governments’ ability to regulate 5G facilities, and that matter is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Other items on the May 18 council agenda include:

-A public hearing for the 2022-2027 Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program

-Discussion of a city department reorganization proposal that would move the clerk’s office to the administrative services department (the new name for the finance department), plus associated job description and compensation changes.

– Consideration of next steps for developing additional tree regulations.

– Continued discussion on the council’s process for reviewing Citizens Housing Commission recommendations.

– The annual report from Zachor Thomas, which provides prosecuting attorney services for the city.

– A resolution honoring the life of Natalie Shippen, the first woman elected to the Edmonds City Council, serving from 1971-75.

The council’s business meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Prior to that, at 6:30 p.m., the council will meet to interview two of Mayor Mike Nelson’s appointments for openings on the Edmonds Planning Board: Richard Kuehn and Judi Gladstone. Confirmation of those appointments will appear on the council’s consent agenda.

Meetings are held virtually using the Zoom meeting platform. To join, comment, view or listen to the Edmonds City Council Meeting in its entirety, paste the following into a web browser using a computer or smart phone: Or join by phone: call US: +1 253 215 8782 Webinar ID: 957 9848 4261

To provide audience comments using a computer or smart phone, raise a virtual hand to be recognized. Persons who want to provide audience comments by dial-up phone are instructed to press *9 to raise a hand. When prompted, press *6 to unmute.

In addition to Zoom, regular council meetings beginning at 7 p.m.  are streamed live on the council meeting webpage, Comcast channel 21, and Ziply channel 39.

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