Julia Nagel/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

At Wednesday’s Common Council meeting, members discussed 5G antenna spacing, sending a proposal to change the spacing between installations to 1500 feet to vote.

September 23, 2021

Common Council Debates Legislation Regulating 5G Towers

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On Sept. 22, the Ithaca Common Council voted to send legislation requiring greater distance between cell towers needed for 5G services to be voted on during the Council’s Oct. 6 meeting.

The Common Council has been working to figure out the best way to install the small cell facilities, infrastructure and equipment to support 5G technology. At Wednesday’s meeting, the Common Council decided to increase the distance between installations from 500 feet to 1500 feet and the distance from an installation to a residential home, schools and daycare from 50 feet to 250.

During a public hearing that took place before the meeting, numerous constituents expressed their concern — saying that having antennas in proximity to people’s homes and gathering spaces exposed them to the potentially dangerous effects of radiation.

However, research shows that much of the fear surrounding wireless technology is unfounded, with virtually no evidence that radiation from the technology causes cancer, a common fear amongst opponents.

“Just as one’s first cigarette or first ten years of smoking may not show any damage to one’s lungs, the long term cumulative effects of all the extra unnecessary radiation exposure on children is a real serious concern I heard especially from many parents,” Marie Molnar, a local resident who spoke out against 5G, said.

Like Molnar, the majority of the participants voiced concerns about the proximity of the 5G towers to their spaces, asking for at least 1500 feet between the new cellular towers and homes, schools and daycares.

Some residents cited existing health effects they personally experience due to exposure to electromagnetic waves.

“I myself am challenged with a number of physical symptoms that are activated when I am heavily exposed to EMF wave frequencies,” Jamie Love, another resident who spoke during  the public hearing, said. “I understand that most of y’all might not feel these effects, but for us — it puts our immune systems into overload.”

The World Health Organization says that although many people attribute symptoms to electromagnetic field exposure, there is no scientific evidence that supports the phenomenon — symptoms like headaches and increased anxiety may be caused by the use of new technologies rather than the radiation they emit.

After hearing concerns from the public during the hearing, the Common Council deliberated specific changes of the ordinance, and what to revise before sending the legislation for full voting in October.

Graham Kerslick (D-4th Ward), began the discussion on the distancing of 5G installments by acknowledging the concerns that people had shared throughout the evening. Kerslick noted that though there is no current scientific evidence that health impacts exist, there are calls for more studies into the issue in the future. He advocated for the increase of spacing between installments, not for health concerns, but to minimize the negative aesthetic impact of this technology on Ithaca.

Ducson Nguyen (D-2nd Ward), told the Council that he would be voting against this proposed change because he is concerned about perpetuating unfounded fears about the 5G devices.

“If we are shadow regulating based on health [through the aesthetics concern], I just don’t share those concerns and I’m afraid of restrictions that will inhibit future innovation,” Nguyen said.

After much discussion, the Common Council decided to increase the space between two installations from 500 feet to 1500 feet, with the increase being passed six in favor, three against.

Cynthia Brock (D-1st Ward) opened the debate to distance 5G installations from residential homes, primary and secondary schools and daycare centers by pushing for an increase from 50 feet to 1500 feet, which failed to pass with only two for and seven against.

The Council revised the proposal to increase the 50 feet to 250 feet for residential homes, schools and daycares, which passed with six in favor and three against.

The Common Council further discussed labeling requirements, possible notification processes for residents near the 5G installations and other proposed changes that have been flagged to be addressed in the next Common Council meeting.

The Council voted in favor of the ordinance with the changes that were made with seven for the legislation and two against. The Common Council will fully vote on the legislation with these changes in October.