OCEANSIDE — City Council unanimously approved an urgency ordinance that will put restrictions on wireless communication facilities, satellite dishes and antennas on Oct. 20.
“It’s a great first step,” Holly Hargett, telecommunications committee member, said. “It’s absolutely where they need to go. The previous guidelines were outdated 13 years.”
New guidelines pinpoint preference areas for cell phone tower placement in city-owned, industrial and commercial property before towers are put in public, open space, agricultural or residential areas. “We want them to co-locate,” Jerry Hittleman, city planner, said. “If the applicant wants to place antennas on a commercial building they must prove the need of the facility.”
While the ordinance is a step in the right direction, many residents are still concerned about present towers that loom over schools and churches that are outside of residential zones.
“I don’t want to sit in a classroom with a cell phone tower over my head,” Chris Tucker, a student at Hillside Academy, said. “The radiation causes brain cancer, plenty of doctors think so.”
“Members of my family, including my daughter, have been made quite ill by these structures,” Tom Allen, an Oceanside resident, said. “Article 39 is a sensible first step.”
To comply with current laws the ordinance cannot prohibit telecommunication services in specific areas, still residents urged council to consider potential health risks of cell phone tower radiation.
“You are the safeguard in the city,” Connie Chapman, an Oceanside resident, said. “I am a mother. I like my cell phone, but I love my family.”
The ordinance provides for cell phone towers to be set back from residential areas the height of the tower plus 10 feet, and calls for towers to be camouflaged from view.
It is also requires amateur radio antenna to be limited to 36 feet, or 10 feet above building height.
Additional recommendations were made that a monetary penalty be charged to communication facilities after conditional use permits expire, and ham radio operators pay a reduced fee for conditional use permits. “Hopefully we can look at them (additional recommendations) further down the road,” Hargett said.
There was strong objection from ham radio operators about being regulated under the same ordinance as commercial service providers.
“We’re two diverse groups being covered with one ordinance,” Dennis Parker, an Oceanside resident, said. “We’re totally diverse operations.”
“It mixes nonprofit with for-profit carriers, something’s wrong,” Fred Ashley, an Oceanside ham radio operator, said.
Because of significant public objection to inclusion of amateur radio in the ordinance, city staff will report back Jan. 5 on modifications for ham radio operator requirements.