By Focus Staff

Farragut had a lot of news last week about 5G small cell cellular towers/antennas that will be placed in the right of way of Farragut resident’s front yards. The week started out with a special call meeting of the Farragut Mayor and Board of Aldermen (BOMA) that was held on election day Tuesday, March 3. Mayor Ron Williams explained the BOMA had to pass a resolution that Tuesday evening before state Rep. Jason Zachary presented state House Bill 2150 to the Utilities Subcommittee on Wednesday morning in Nashville.

Rep. Zachary had contacted Mayor Williams requesting a resolution from the BOMA supporting HB 2150. This new bill would change the 5G small cell state legislation of 2018 that granted broad powers to the cellular industry so they could install 5G small cell towers/antennas in the right of way in residents’ front yards with little restrictions. The proposed bill would change state law to bring control to Farragut for issues of certain aesthetics, construction, height, and placement requirements.

The meeting of the Utilities Subcommittee on Wednesday lasted for an hour and twenty one minutes. During this time Rep. Zachary, AT&T President of Tennessee Joelle Phillips, Verizon lobbyist Mandy Young, and Farragut Town Administrator David Smoak all testified about HB 2150.

The cellular industry representatives rejected the need for Rep. Zachary’s bill and explained at length they felt the bill was in violation of the U.S. Telecommunications Acts of 1996 and 2018. A high point of testimony was when the chairman of the Utilities Subcommittee said to the cellular industry representatives present, “What if you just said, ‘Farragut you don’t want us, we just won’t put it in here,’ what would happen?” This did not sit well with the cellular industry representatives who made excuses that was not an option due to federal laws about emergency response yet both were forgetting that 4G cellular would not go away and would serve that emergency response requirement.

The meeting had a surprise ending as Rep. Zachary told the chairman that AT&T had requested time to negotiate and that the bill be delayed for one week. Thursday afternoon, March 5, Rep. Zachary announced an agreement with AT&T and Verizon had been reached that granted the Town of Farragut control for issues of certain aesthetics, construction, height, and placement requirements and the prior 11 Verizon towers that had been approved by the Farragut Planning Commission would be reviewed.

The battle for control of aesthetics and construction of 5G towers in Farragut may be over but the war over 5G small cell cellular towers/antennas that will be placed in the right of way in Farragut residents’ front yards wages on with a white hot intensity.

Across the Town of Farragut signs are appearing in front yards with a large font 5G with a red circle and bar across it with the words, “KEEP CELL TOWERS OUT OF OUR NEIGHBORHOODS.” The red circle and bar across it are the universal symbol for NO.

Rep. Zachary said in his neighborhood many anti-5G signs were appearing in front yards protesting Verizon’s proposed 5G towers and that he had a sign in his front yard. Zachary made it clear he was not against 5G on the existing large towers but he agreed with his neighbors and constituents that none of them wanted 5G small cell towers/antennas in their front yards.

Verizon lobbyist Mandy Young commented to Zachary, “We don’t want to get in neighborhoods where they put up ‘I hate 5G signs’ because that’s not good for business.”

Hours later a YouTube of that comment was put up on the Facebook page “Farragut Citizens for Responsible Growth and Development.”

Farragut resident Laura Fangman posted her new website on the FCRGD Facebook page where residents could request a free “NO 5G” sign for their front yard. Quickly comments ensued with residents thanking Fangman for the signs and within a day signs were all over the Town of Farragut. Farragut Vice Mayor Louise Povlin commented on the FCRGD Facebook page that the town had no ordinance against the signs as long as they were not in the right of way in the front yard. Signs were moved overnight from the curb to the middle of the front yard to be in compliance.

Fangman told The Knoxville Focus, “Farragut is a wonderful place to live and its residents are not anti-technology or anti-progress. We simply like our neighborhood the way it is.”

Farragut resident Laura Squires contacted both Rep. Zachary and Verizon Market Manager Tamara J. Closs after the agreement in the Utilities Subcommittee was reached and asked them for protection that cellular emissions would not exceed federal limits. Squires pointed out that the first cellular company could place a tower/antenna within federal limits but when the second cellular company placed their equipment on the same pole the emission load would not be within federal guidelines, essentially pointing out a flaw in both the federal and state legislation.

Closs responded to Squires via email saying, “Verizon takes matters relating to RF safety seriously and has a comprehensive compliance program designed to ensure VZ adherence to the RF Safety standards set by the federal government.” Squires wants protection in the state law and will continue to reach out to state lawmakers.