By Mike Steely
Senior Writer
Some Farragut homeowners are finding markings in their lawns and are upset about the planned location of 5G towers there. They stood before the mayor and aldermen Thursday evening to ask for help but found there’s little the town can do other than seek help from their state lawmakers.
Although the tower placement was not on the agenda the citizens demanded some type of action during the public forum.
Eleven sites were approved earlier in the month by the Farragut Planning Commission and the towers would be built on public right of way in the town. Some 120 people attended the meeting and heard Town Attorney Tom Hale tell them there’s little the town can do to stop the towers.
If the Board of Mayor and Aldermen fail to vote within 61 days then Verizon’s application for eleven towers would automatically be approved. Two other companies, AT&T and T-Mobile, may also apply for the small 5G towers.
One resident, Bill Bryant, said his lawn has been marked for a tower but the neighborhood has underground utilities. He called on help from the area’s state legislators to protect Farragut home owners.
Laura Squire told the meeting she feels “violated” with the proliferation of the towers.
“We only have the powers given to us by the state,” Attorney Hale said.
“No one understands it, what is a ‘right-of-way?’” Squire inquired, encouraging the body to go to the state and see about opting out of the tower placements.
“State law trumps ours,” Town Administrator David Smoak said of the difficulty of the town to fight the state and federal regulations.
One resident said the powerful little towers cause cancer and asked that the towers be located in commercial areas only.
Mike Mitchell said that state Senator Richard Briggs is asking for a resolution for the town to opt out. He called the 5G towers a “massive overkill” of data capacity and added, “There’s no need for those in a residential neighborhood.”
He said the state legislators don’t understand the impact that residential towers on right-of-ways will have on Farragut. Mitchell said the towers will reduce home values as much as 21 percent.
Several other homeowners spoke against the location of the 5G towers. It was noted that the Federal Communications Commission’s regulation allowing the placement of cell towers was made 22 years ago.
Mayor Ron Williams told the Focus Friday morning that a resolution is being created and will be on the next meeting’s agenda. He said that resolution, when passed, will go to state Representative Jason Zachary and Senator Briggs. He also said that Farragut is one of the few jurisdictions that require utilities to come before the city planning commission for approval.
“We are currently looking to see what other jurisdictions have done,” he said.
“We are keeping an eye on litigation in the 9th circuit court of appeals (case no. 19-70147). It is our best opportunity to see the FCC be required to update its radio frequency exposure standards,” said Vice Mayor Povlin.
“At last night’s forum, the citizens requested that we support a resolution to support some local control over 5G implementation.  Given the wrinkle of the due date for final bills I’m not sure how we will proceed,” Povlin wrote in an email to The Focus Friday.
“The most important thing for us, as a Town, is to work through some language that has a chance of passing legal muster both at the state level and the federal level and then pass a resolution supporting that language for the state General Assembly to consider passing. The FCC passed rule 18-133 in September 2018 that also preempts local control over the implementation of 5G support structures.”