Community group makes progress in restricting 5G equipment

Community group makes progress in restricting 5G equipment

Jacksonville City Council members and members of the Stop 5G Jax group are working together to keep large telecommunication equipment out of residential neighborhoods and other areas where they could become an eyesore. 

Duval County has an ordinance in place that echoes state and federal legislation that allows telecommunications companies seeking to create a new 5G network to place equipment like utility poles and large units just about anywhere they want. But, telecom stakeholders, community leaders and organization members are working together to place some restraint on where the equipment goes. 

They’re planning to do that by having a vote on a newly-created amendment to the original city ordinance, 2019-770 – the local version of the state and federal bills. The amendment, if passed as-is, would implement some changes such as minimum setbacks from driveways and hydrants, among other restrictions.

Raymur Rachels, who heads up the Stop 5g Jax group, said the proposed amendment doesn’t cover many of the restrictions her group would like, but that legally the compromises seemed to be the best answer.  Next, they need to be voted on by the Land Use and Zoning Committee (LUZ) before going before the City Council. At the moment, with so many city meetings cancelled, it’s unclear when the vote would be taken. Originally it had been penciled in for April.

“While we’re not really happy with the current (proposed) legislation, we feel that it is the best we are going to do locally at this,” Rachels said.  “We are not happy, but we are supporting that. (LUZ Chair) Danny Becton plans to propose the amendment.” Becton represents also District 11 on the City Council, and he hosted four town hall workshops to help the Stop group, telecommunications representatives, and city representatives forge an agreement.

At the end of March, the proposed restrictions were:

  • Towers/poles must be as close to homeowners’ lot lines as possible and never greater than the required building setback line (usually 7-and-a-half feet).
  • They must be 10 feet away from driveway
  • They must be 30 feet away from hydrants
  • Telecomm companies must map everything within 50 feet of a proposed tower/pole and submit a site plan for approval

District 14 Councilwoman Randy DeFoor, whose district includes Riverside, Avondale, Ortega and Murray Hill, attended the town halls and supported the amendment.

“Basically, what (telecom companies) have the right to do right now is that they can place these poles anywhere,” she explained  “They can put a pole just about anywhere they want as long as it’s in the right-of-way easement. As you know, on average, most people have 20 feet that go into their yard that is a right-of-way easement. Think about that, especially in Ortega, where they spent an enormous amount of time and energy and money to get their power lines undergrounded so they can have a beautiful view. Now, wireless vendors can come in and put their poles anywhere. Cosmetically, it is unfortunate.”

At-large Group 4 Councilman Matt Carlucci said he is not on the committee working on the amendment but that he supports it.

“I don’t know how many Gs we need,” he explained. “I thought four was enough, but now we need five for some reason. It may be faster, but it doesn’t have as long a range, and it places these larger, boxlike units on telephone poles. I’m just not overwhelmed with the idea. I like new technology, but new technology usually comes in smaller packages.”

DeFoor said even getting an amendment was difficult but community members stuck with the challenge.

“At the state level, we were usurped, but (locally) we fought and did everything to insert as much as we could in terms of restrictions. It was a fight. It hasn’t been passed yet – that still has not gone through City Council. The group was very involved, and they were wonderful to work with.”

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