Dalton Gardens, ID is Revising its Wireless Ordinance

Adapted from an article by Craig Northrup, Jan 27, 2021 | Original Coeur d’Alene Press article here.


A so-called "small" Wireless Telecommunications Facility (sWTF) enables 4G/5G from atop a street light at a Boise intersection. The black cylinder is one of dozens of designs wireless telecommunication providers have built in order to have their 4G/5G transmissions more ubiquitous. The Planning and Zoning Commission is considering an ordinance to streamline the regulations for the placement, construction and modification of such infrastructure, whether residents want this infrastructure or not.

While densifed 4G/5G — the next step in wireless telecommunications service — spreads across the landscape of certain Cities in the US, the city of Dalton Gardens will debate how to get ahead of some of the agenda the industry has attempted to impose on cities and towns.

Dalton Garden’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Thursday will include an agenda item to consider a so-called "small" Wireless Telecommunications Facility (sWTF) ordinance as part of its package to regulate how and where wireless providers can hook up such much-too-powerful wireless infrastructure.

Rand Wichman, the city’s planner, said the driving force behind the ordinance is to set up a framework for companies to abide by, rather than let wireless providers make up the rules as they go.

Wichman said:

“The reason the city is doing this is, if we don’t have an ordinance, then a provider can come in do as they wish and could enforce that with a court order."

sWTFs are, functionally speaking, full powered cell towers. Designed to blend into the environment visually, the nodes typically cover ranges anywhere from 30 or 40 feet to more than several miles.

While 5G already exists in patches around Kootenai County, the sWTFs would serve more as signal boosters, strength speeds for 4G- and 5G-capable devices.

sWTF infrastructure has been officially on Dalton Garden’s plate since last May, when initial drafts of an ordinance were workshopped. But locals have come to city council meetings from Dalton Gardens to Hayden to Coeur d’Alene citing substantial written evidence in the public record about the well-documented public safety, privacy and property value harms caused by sWTF infastructure that is contstructed too low to the ground, too close to homes and run at much too high levels of power. All of this results in ruining the quiet enoyment of streets.

Others, however, have brought up substantiated claims that pulsed, data-modulated, Radio-frequency Electromagnetic Microwave Radiation (RF-EMR) of any G suppresses the immune systems of people, plants animals and insects. That is a material concern during the current National Emergency for SARS CoVi-2/Covid-19.

Tyler Drechsel, who serves on Dalton Garden’s Planning and Zoning Commission, said he’s heard from many locals who’ve brought densified 4G/5G to the city’s attention.

“Based on what I’ve seen at the meetings, we’ve had a lot of people bringing forward their evidence . . .," he said. "It’s important to recognize and consider that evidence. We’ve had one lady saying 4G/5G causes cancer. We’ve had some people saying it releases frequencies that are hazardous to human health. We’ve had some people saying it emits frequencies that can damage the environment.”

Drechsel qualified, however, that he’s taken those testimonials and Google searches to heart and conducted his own research, eventually concluding that he hasn’t seen enough evidence to sway him toward or away from Densified 4G/5G. He added that even if sWTF’s electromagnetic power through the air did cause damage, the commission would still have to weigh that risk versus a benefit to the city before making any decision.

“Right now, I’m talking to you on wireless internet because I have to,” he said during his phone interview. “If I go outside into my back yard, I can’t call 9-1-1.”

So call 9-1-1 from a landline, from the "Wi-Fi calling" service or from a cell phone in your front yard. All are viable options.

“We’ve heard a lot of evidence from residents about the adverse health effects of these wireless communications facilities,” Wichman said. “From what we can gather, in reviewing the direction from the [Federal Communications Commission] and the court decisions and all that, we are expressly preempted from regulating these kinds of facilities based on the health impacts. That’s just not something we can do.”

That, unfortunately is misinformed. The 1996 Telecommmunications Act (1996-TCA) only prempts the following from local authority (no mention of health effects/impacts consideration being preempted):

Title 47 U.S. Code §332(a)(7)(B)(iv):

"(iv) No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commission’s regulations concerning such emissions.

The 1996-TCA also points local towns to an easy solution (regulate the power output):

Title 47 U.S. Code § 324 – Use of minimum power

"In all circumstances. . . all radio stations . . . shall use the minimum amount of power necessary to carry out the communication desired."

Wichman added that, regardless of the consequences, exploring the potential health effects generated from the internal workings of wireless communication devices and facilities is something other departments in the federal government have been entrusted with regulating, essentially tying the city’s hands."

This is also misinformed and is merely Wireless industry propaganda. The local City Council has duties and obligations to delivery public safety. Full stop. Regardless of any other pressures it might perceive — real or imagined — from other sources.

“We have an FCC that’s supposed to deal with these kinds of issues,” he said.

And the FCC argued the issue in the US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit on Mon Jan 25, 2021. We are awaiting the ruling on FCC Order 19-126 to see if the order will be vacated and remanded back to the FCC.

“I don’t worry about road maintenance, because that’s the job of the highway district. I don’t worry about septic systems, because that’s the health district’s job. It’s really the same kind of thing here…"

Unfortunately, that is not the case. The buck stops with the Dalton Gardens City Council.

Wichman said the best way for the city to exert its authority on the matter is to remain proactive with an ordinance that dictates as many parameters as possible under its control to regulate the placement, construction, modification and operations of Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (WTFs) of any size and any "G", no matter where they are installed.

Devices, designed to be installed on street lights, telephone poles or utility boxes are not necessary. They are only one option of many.

“Doing nothing does not prohibit these,” he said. “Doing nothing results in us not having any control over them.”

While no court orders have been filed, and while no official proposal has been presented to Dalton Gardens, the city has fielded inquiries from providers about whether or not ordinances or regulations are on the books. Dalton Gardens Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled to meet Thursday at 6 p.m. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, attendance will be held virtually.