The Woodstock Town Board, on April 16, once again heard from a roomful of residents concerned about harmful health effects of the new 5G wireless technology.
Those who came to speak about 5G were disappointed about having to wait until the end of the business meeting to speak, some two hours later, but it didn’t dampen their passion. But there were audible groans and gasps when Supervisor Bill McKenna explained limitations against local regulation.
The town has discussed placing a hold on applications for 5G facilities until it studies the health ramifications and it can sort out what it can and can’t do, but that might place it in legal jeopardy. “According to the federal government, moratoriums are not legal and would land us in court,” McKenna said.
It also seems the federal government is putting a rush on applications in order to get the technology built. It has imposed “shot clocks” giving municipalities 60 days to approve 5G equipment at an existing facility or 90 days for a new structure.
When reviewing applications, or discussing legislations, towns are also not supposed to talk about the health effects and are discouraged from dictating aesthetics for cell sites, McKenna said.
The new 5G technology is intended to provide higher speed communications for entire communities, but that will require placing cell sites as close as 200-300 feet apart. The industry says it can effectively eliminate the need for individual wifi routers in homes and businesses, but concerned residents say it can result in blanketing every square inch of a community with radiation.
Councilman Richard Heppner urged the board to review zoning regulations because the existing sections on communications are outdated when compared to current wireless technology.
“Although it may not be legal, I’m for putting in a moratorium,” said Councilman Lorin Rose. “I’ve never seen anybody come in and say they really want 5G.” Rose said he lives at the edge of what he calls “Radio Free Bearsville” and he likes being out of cell phone range.
“I’m in favor of doing whatever we can to stop it,” said Reggie Earls, who suggested it might be better if everyone isn’t on their phones all the time.
“I want to know what this insane rush is to inflict this on the population,” resident Abbey Mitchell said. “It’s madness.”
Steve Romine, who has been outspoken on the topic, warned it must be stopped and said that there are no peer-reviewed studies showing the technology is safe. “Humanity as a whole has never really lived with the amount of radiation that they’re going to dump on us,” he said.
“We’re not trying to cause problems,” said Raji Nevin. “We’re trying to come up with solutions,” she said, strongly objecting to being cut off after a one-minute-per-speaker limit. Nevin said she and Romine have given the Town Board “massive amounts of documentation” and were disappointed by McKenna’s response.
Based on a recommendation in the recently adopted Comprehensive Plan, the board plans to form a telecommunications committee to address 5G concerns and come up with solutions to a lack of cell phone coverage in the western part of town.