Verizon Wireless representative testified at county hearing.
Verizon Wireless representatives testified at county hearing. Image via

County supervisors considering nearly two dozen zoning changes Wednesday heard arguments — most involving the federally mandated 5G wireless network rollout — for and against the proposed amendments.

According to the county Planning & Development Services department, the 21 proposed zoning amendments would help the county better carry out growth initiatives, streamline and clarify regulations, address new uses and business practices, and carry out new state and federal regulations.

If passed, the zoning changes will affect housing for senior citizens and farm workers, certain types of density building and condominium development in the county.

The board is scheduled to formally vote on adopting all zoning changes March 13.

Last fall, the Federal Communications Commission approved a new rule, now in effect, on the 5G wireless network deployment.

According to critics, the rule curtails local authority by limiting fees that local governments may assess on companies that place or build new wireless service facilities. The FCC rule also gave local governments 60 days to evaluate applications from wireless companies on 5G structures.

During the meeting, opponents of 5G facilities cited serious health risks from small cell tower radiation, declining property values and unwelcome aesthetic changes in rural communities.

Holly Manion, a Rancho Santa Fe-based Realtor, said county Planning & Development staff should further study what the 5G rollout is about and possibly set up preferred zones for facilities.

“I don’t want to see San Diego turn over its keys to the head of the FCC,” Manion said, adding Rancho Santa Fe residents paid $18 million for underground fiber-optic cables.

“Are we going to ask to cut down our sacred trees for 5G waves?” she asked.

Two officials with Verizon Wireless spoke in favor of the 5G-related zoning changes. Mike Farraher, who handles community outreach for Verizon Wireless in the San Diego area, said the county staff’s recommendations would “allow for competition on a global level.”

Board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said she resents the FCC telling the county what to do in terms of the 5G timeline. “We have a good ordinance on wireless facilities, which allows them to be placed in appropriate places while protecting communities,” she said.

Jacob added the county had several options, including possible litigation and ways to further protect local control.

Supervisor Greg Cox said he generally supports 5G technology, but asked county staff to return with additional recommendations on small cell facilities.

Others voiced different concerns about the proposed zoning changes, including whether community planning groups had enough input.

Brian Sesko, chairman of the Lakeside Community Planning Group, said there was confusion over when the county notified them about planning changes.

Sesko added that while his group isn’t totally opposed to zoning changes, there needs to be more time for community feedback.

— City News Service

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