The ordinance helps Maitland define the aesthetics of 5G cell towers within the city.
Maitland City Council swore in new and returning members, appointed a vice mayor, and passed a contentious ordinance allowing some control over a proposed 5G cell network in Maitland during a heated meeting Monday, April 8.
5G Cell Network
Frustrations boiled over at the meeting regarding the state infringing on home rule, as well as potential health hazards concerning a 5G cell network in Maitland.
In 2017, the Florida Legislature passed the “Advanced Wireless Infrastructure Deployment Act,” which provided access to rights-of-way for 5G cell networks to be implemented in the state. The act effectively preempted local governments from regulating the proposed cell facilities or their placement in the city. The aspect in their control, according to the council, was the structures’ aesthetics, which was part of the ordinance presented Monday night.
These 5G cell structures are smaller and more numerous than their 4G counterparts and function better when placed close to one another. City documents claim the United States will have a network of an estimated 800,000 cell structures by 2026.
Several Central Florida residents attended Monday night’s meeting to express their discontent over the idea, fearing possible health concerns if they were placed in crowded areas or neighborhoods.
“We don’t know for sure exactly what the results of this technology is going to be, but we all will have to live in this community and deal with what the repercussions are,” said Caleb Payne, a Winter Park resident who works in Maitland. “It would be better if there were some studies so we would know for sure the technology is safe before it’s implemented.”
The council members’ responses was that the decision to implement the towers was out of their hands and that they weren’t happy about the lack of control, either.
“From the local government’s perspective, this isn’t really an ordinance authorizing 5G,” said legal counsel Drew Smith. “The state did that for us. This is an ordinance putting on what limitations the state has left to us to try and control it.”
Councilman Mike Thomas shared his exasperation for the ordinance but saw it as a better alternative than refusing to pass it and potentially having the city pay massive legal fees.
“We’re doing the best we can,” Thomas said. “We have no authority ... I can’t sit up here as a responsible council representative of Maitland say ‘Let’s spend 3 million dollars on some fruitless statement that we don’t want this’ and it’s going to go in anyway when I can spend that money on sidewalks ... that’s what we’re dealing with.”
Members of the public continued to voice their complaints as council members expressed their own contempt for the state bill as an attack on home rule.
“Home rule is not being slowly eroded but quickly stolen from municipalities and counties,” Mayor Dale McDonald said. “To put it as nicely as I can: It’s a whole lot easier for larger, corporate vested interests to deal with a Legislature than it is to deal with 406 cities and 67 counties in this state. And Lord knows everybody wants a piece of that Florida action.”
The council eventually adopted the ordinance 4-1, with Councilwoman Bev Reponen dissenting. She encouraged residents to continue to voice their opinions on the state bill.
Councilmen Mike Thomas and Michael Wilde recited their oaths of office for their new, three-year terms at the beginning of the meeting.
“It was a hard-fought campaign,” Thomas joked. “I thought about if I wanted to do this for another three years, and then I decided we still had some things to get done. I look forward to that time, I think we’ve got a great council.”
Wilde thanked his family for their support to run for councilman.
“I think we’re headed in a great direction, and I hope to contribute and do what I can in making the city great,” Wilde said.
Councilman John Lowndes also was appointed as vice mayor, succeeding Mike Thomas.
IN OTHER NEWS
The council moved leftover funds from a scaled-down canal project near the Tomahawk and Mohawk of Dommerich to other lakes projects. Those include management of Capital Improvement Program projects, Hydrilla Management, community outreach & engagement and more.
The council also approved an engineering scope of services from Pegasus Engineering to design stormwater improvements at 781 Goldwater Court for $52,779
The council approved the purchase of nine police-package vehicles that will cost $370,871.26.