By Focus Staff
The Farragut Municipal Planning Commission met Thursday, January 16t and following an hour-long workshop on the proposed Verizon small call 5G cellular roll out for the Town of Farragut. The regular meeting was to be a discussion and vote on 11 sites for the new 5G cellular antennas. Those sites were 100 S. Campbell Station Road, 500 N. Campbell Station Road, 10809 Dineen Drive, 10870 Kingston Pike, 11124 Kingston Pike, 11840 Kingston Pike 12001 Kingston Pike, 11433 Parkside Drive, 11534 Parkside Drive, 11101 Sonja Drive, 11221 Sonja Drive, and Lot 75 Cove at Turkey Creek (near intersection of Turkey Cove Lane and Matthews Cove Lane) (Towersource, Applicant). These 5G cellular antennas would be built within the public rights of way.
A standing-room-only audience of over 120 Farragut residents turned out for the workshop. The crowd expected to learn technical information about the 5G antennas that would be next to their homes. However, the entire hour was spent listening to Town of Farragut Attorney Tom Hale telling the residents there was nothing they could do to protect their homes.
Hale had a PowerPoint presentation explaining that in 1996 the Federal Communications Commission passed a rule that was the basis for a Tennessee State Law that was passed in 2018 by both houses in the legislature and was signed by then Governor Bill Haslam. The state law stated that cell phone companies could place cellular antennas in public rights of way. Hale also explained that the state law mandated a 60-day approval process he called a “shot clock.” If the Town did not approve the Verizon application for the 11 sites by day 61 they were automatically approved by state law.
The regular meeting began at 7:00 p.m. and, site by site, the 11 locations were discussed in detail.
Throughout the five and a half hours of workshop and regular meeting, frustrated residents would raise their hands to ask questions. Chairperson Rita Holladay ignored them. This went on for hours until FMPC member Rose Ann Kile stopped and explained that to speak residents had to fill out a blue card and give it to Community Development Director Mark Shipley. Residents continued to raise their hands for hours after this. Residents were only allowed to speak if they lived near the site being discussed. This angered many residents. Many times during the meeting the chair asked for residents to be quiet as they spoke to each other.
Resident after resident asked that the FMPC not vote on these sites in this session because not enough information had been given to the public. After about an hour and a half planning commission member Rose Ann Kile told the chair she would make a motion to approve all 11 sites so the commission could work on all the conditions. This was met with great frustration and anger from the audience of residents.
After many hours local citizen’s group Farragut Citizens for Responsible Growth and Development co-founder Michael Wilson came to the podium to speak. Wilson asked the Town of Farragut to stand up to the state law citing that other towns across America had established sanctuary cities for illegal aliens and for firearm rights. Why couldn’t Farragut be a 5G free sanctuary city? This created much discussion on the commission with Vice Mayor Louise Povlin saying that the Town of Farragut could not afford to be sued by Verizon. Yet there was little concern about the town being sued by thousands of Farragut residents concerned about their property values.
Towards the end of the marathon meeting Farragut resident Mike Mitchell came to the podium. Mitchell asked the two Verizon spokesmen, Jason and Alex, and their counterpart, Andy Lowe with Power Source from Roswell, Georgia, three questions.
The first question was what kind of cell towers would be next to Stone Crest and on Sonja Drive. All three of the experts looked at the floor and no one answered.
Then Mitchell asked them the frequency of the towers. They looked at the floor and no one answered. It turned out none of the three of them new much about the actual antennas being installed.
Then Mitchell asked the Verizon experts, “For four weeks I’ve been trying to find out if the people of Farragut will have small cell 5G antennas in their front yard. Will there be these small cell 5G antennas in the front yards of people in Farragut?”
Andy Lowe of Power Source walked to the podium and said, “There will be 5G antennas in the right of way.”
Mitchell asked him, “In people’s front yards?”
Lowe said, “Yes.”
Mitchell then told the planning commission what this would mean to homeowners in Farragut. Mitchell said, “Multiple real estate studies show homes lose between 2% to 21% of their value if a small cell 5G antenna is place in their front yard. The median home value in Farragut is $386,624. A 21% reduction of the median price is a $81,000 loss. There are approximately 8,760 homes in Farragut at this time. If there are 5G cellular antennas in one tenth of the yards in Farragut that could affect 2,628 homes. 10 percent of 8,760 is 876. The home next door is affected and the home across the street is affected. So multiply 876 times three. The equals 2,628 homes. Which is 30 percent of the homes in Farragut.
“If 30 percent of the homes in Farragut, at a median home price of $386,624, have their property value reduced by 21% this is a total loss of property value in Farragut of $213 million dollars. If the property value goes down only ten percent the total loss is $106 million dollars.
“What is even worse is that these small 5G antennas in residents’ front yards may have as many as three cell company antennas: Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. That is a lot of cellular radiation 30 feet from your home. How can someone sell their home with this condition?”
The residents became very quiet as this was unexpected information they were not aware of.
The rest of the meeting was spent discussing aesthetic issues of what color the poles of the antennas should be and what limits the Town of Farragut could place on aesthetic values and be in compliance with state law.