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Wireless recommendations put on hold

Council directs staff to compare Laguna's telecommunication ordinance with other cities before it challenges federal control

March 14, 2012|By Barbara Diamond

The City Council wants more information before it challenges the federal government's control of wireless services facilities — those installations that have sprouted up all over Laguna, regardless of how city officials or residents feel about them.

City staff will prepare a comparison of Laguna's telecommunication ordinance with those of other cities, particularly Glendale's, before the City Council takes action to encourage the federal government to allow more local control over the facilities.

"The issue is the Federal Communications Commission basically trumps us," said Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson, who was a member of the Planning Commission that drafted the city's telecommunications ordinance. "Our understanding was that the federal government regulated this issue and the only latitude we had was aesthetics and consolidated emissions at the site."

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City Attorney Philip Kohn said no changes have been made in federal law since the ordinance was adopted and the city can do very little about it.

The Federal Communications Act of 1996 specifically prevents local governments from regulating location or construction of wireless service installations based on health or the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions, as long as they comply with FCC regulations.

"A large segment of our community is frustrated by the limitations," said Mayor Pro Tem Verna Rollinger.

Recommendations on wireless service facilities at the March 6 council meeting came from the now-defunct Environmental Committee, although its subcommittee was advised of the federal limitations.

However, the subcommittee also discussed the resolution adopted by Glendale, which asks for more local control over placement of the facilities and more studies on health impacts of the emissions.

Environmental Committee recommendations:

•Approve a resolution declaring local governments should have the ability to consider health and environmental effects of the facilities.

•Direct city staff to work with the city attorney and report back to the council on the Glendale ordinance as a potential model for Laguna.

•Direct staff to hire wireless-testing professionals who have not written any report in support of facilities construction in Laguna.

•Lobby federal representatives for more local control over placement and construction of the facilities and comprehensive studies on the effects on health and the environment.

The community development staff and the deputy city attorney are on record that FCC regulations adequately protect the public from emissions, a position questioned by Councilwoman Toni Iseman.

"I believe the jury is still out on health effects — which we can't talk about," Iseman said.

She volunteered to do some research on what other cities are doing in regard to local control.

Charmaine Craig said Glendale's ordinance includes setbacks — required distances — from parks, schools and residences.

The Glendale ordinance is in courts, City Manager John Pietig said.

coastlinepilot@latimes.com

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