Law, as written for Fishkill, aims to regulate 5G placements in Woodstock

The Woodstock Town Board is closer to adopting more comprehensive cellular equipment regulations, but will need to make sure they comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The town seems likely to adopt legislation currently in the works in the town of Fishkill, that is being updated to govern placement of so-called small-cell sites that are used for high-frequency 5G service. The new 5G technology touts higher data bandwidth and call capacity. There are several variants of 5G technology, some of which use the existing 4G LTE frequency range. Opponents are primarily focused on millimeter-wave 5G, which offers the highest capacity, but that many fear leads to ill health effects. However, municipalities are forbidden by law from denying a 5G application for health reasons. What they can do is dictate items like location, aesthetics and setbacks from residences.

Small-cell sites, or Small Wireless Facilities, as referenced in the amendments to Fishkill Town Code, are limited to 60 feet high in business and industrial districts and 45 feet in residential districts. 

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The minimum setback is 50 feet in business and industrial districts and 300 feet in residential districts unless equipment is being installed in an existing utility pole or cell service facility. Applicants must also demonstrate there is no clear line of sight between the proposed location and the tower.

Woodstock has retained telecommunications litigator Andrew Campanelli to help rework the zoning in response to an increase of applications by corporations to upgrade to 5G equipment. 5G opponent Steve Romine has contributed funds in addition to the town’s commitment.

“I think the Zoning Revision Committee felt that this was an easier way to go, with the potential Fishkill draft and Andrew (Campanelli) has agreed to do it for the same $1500 plus whatever Steve (Romine) has agreed to pay,” McKenna said at the December 21 Town Board business meeting. “My recommendation is that we go ahead and move forward with that.”

But Councilman-elect Bennet Ratcliff cautioned references to the ADA may complicate the new cell regulations. “It may, in fact mean that people under the ADA could say that they need this type of 5G and that we were not providing it to them because they have special needs or disabilities,” he said. “If we’re putting language in on the ADA on one specific thing, could somebody then say that we are discriminating in other areas by not including that kind of language, which would then move us towards having to do more ADA things more quickly or under a court order.”

Councilman Richard Heppner raised the issue of 3G being phased out over the next year as carriers replace equipment with 5G. A lot of medical devices, and even the electric-vehicle charging stations on town property, communicate via older 3G technology.

“You may have noticed there was a $340 voucher to ChargePoint, our car charging company. That was for a piece of equipment to update our chargers to 4G and 5G capability, because the 3G that was in there is being phased out,” McKenna said.

Woodstock may make changes to the parts of the Fishkill law that exempt small-cell equipment from 300-foot residential setbacks. Still, McKenna stressed again, the new law will not keep 5G out of Woodstock.

“If the unit is going up on existing telephone poles, then that 300 foot setback is out the window. And this is the law that Andrew drafted for Fishkill, so I’m going to keep reminding everybody that Andrew Campanelli is not promising to keep 5G out of Woodstock. What he’s promised to do is create a law that will give us control to regulate and dictate to some degree where these will go,” McKenna said. “I think it’s a good law. I think we should move in this direction, but it’s not going to keep 5G out of Woodstock and anybody who’s thinking that’s the case is fooling themselves.”

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