The Woodstock Planning Board has scheduled a September 29 public hearing for an application from Verizon Wireless to upgrade equipment for 5G service on the town-owned tower.
The introduction of 5G wireless service in town has sparked controversy from many who have complained about ill health effects from the next-generation technology. But, as has been pointed out numerous times before, municipalities are barred by federal law from considering health factors in their deliberations whether to grant a permit for wireless communications equipment. And if the equipment does not change the footprint of the tower and complies with zoning, it must be permitted within a “60-day shot clock” dictated by the Federal Communications Commission.
Verizon representative Lamar Freeman said the application is for a general upgrade. “I’m sure that you all know and are seeing commercials for 5G. They’re upgrading their service for 5G in this particular location and all their locations nationwide,” Freeman said.
Verizon has nine antennas on the tower, located on California Quarry, and that number will stay the same. Three of those antennas — one on each side of the tower — will be replaced with 5G antennas.
The 5G service will utilize the existing 600-900 MHz range used for existing service. It is not the millimeter-wave variety of 5G that provides very high speed internet connectivity but comes at a tradeoff of having very limited range of about 500 meters. This particular installation will allow for transmission up to a few miles. The low- to mid-band variety of 5G is already in surrounding communities, including Kingston, Ulster and Saugerties and allows for faster internet connections and higher call capacity.
The group Stop 5G Woodstock fears 5G equipment opens the door for millimeter-wave, which necessitates denser antenna installations including on utility poles and rooftops to provide adequate coverage.
Planning Board Administrative Assistant Melissa Gray warned Freeman about possible 5G pushback. “We are in a town that’s pretty adamantly against 5G, so you’re going to get a lot of questions on that,” she said.
“I just want to clarify that the town government hasn’t taken a position but there are a sizable number of people in the town who raise concerns about 5G, so she’s just alerting you to that,” Planning Board Vice Chair Stuart Lipkind said.
Verizon, like T-Mobile, which recently gained approval for equipment upgrades, has signaled cooperation with providing technical information that won’t be necessary for the application, but will answer questions from the 5G-wary public. AT&T refused to provide an engineer to answer such questions when it was before the Planning Board.
Verizon is the first carrier to disclose its immediate intention to provide 5G service in Woodstock. The other two carriers said their new equipment would allow for future service upgrades.
New wireless regs in the works
The Town Board hired telecommunications litigator Andrew Campanelli to update the zoning regulations to govern placement of so-called small-cell sites used for high-band 5G service.
The town will adopt the town of Fishkill’s regulations and adapt it for use in Woodstock.
Small-cell sites will be limited to 60 feet high and must be set back 300 feet from any residence or structure. The changes were approved by Woodstock’s Zoning Revision Committee and sent to the Planning Board for review.
Planning Board members said they don’t understand the amendments and will send it to Planning Attorney John Lyons for review and explanation.