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Flagler Beach, Fla., Officials Wrest Some Local Control in Network Buildout

Though state law allows for the placement of 5G antennas, the city’s new ordinance will allow officials some say in where they are installed.

by Shaun Ryan, The News-Journal / October 3, 2017

(TNS) -- FLAGLER BEACH — Anyone who wonders how self-driving cars will be able to react instantly to surrounding conditions will soon get an answer: antennas mounted atop municipal utility poles.

The Flagler Beach City Commission last week approved an ordinance on first reading that will give city officials some say over how and where the new 5G antennas may be placed in accordance with a recent state law that paves the way for such technology.

Local control is limited, however. For instance, city officials cannot outright deny an applicant from installing such an antenna. But the commission did weigh in on portions that the state allows them to decide.

Primarily, this refers to design standards, registration and adopting fees.

The state Advanced Wireless Infrastructure Deployment Act essentially allows antennas to be attached to public utility poles in rights-of-way. Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law on July 1.

In addition to guiding self-driving vehicles, the fifth generation (or 5G) of wireless technology will also provide anyone with compatible devices access to greater quantities of data at higher speeds.

A presentation on the subject was made in August during a Florida League of Cities conference. City Commissioner Joy McGrew, referring to the presentation, said most of the antennas would be about the size of a shoebox.

Most of them will be installed on existing poles, such as decorative light poles.

"The biggest issue that I think local governments are going to face is going to be the number of these that are going in," City Attorney Drew Smith said during Thursday night's meeting.

Because 5G needs very high frequencies, its antennas must be close together and therefore more numerous.

The local ordinance mandates a permit for installation of antennas and conditions under which waivers must be sought. The antennas may not be placed within eight feet of the curb or on arms that support traffic signals.

The wireless facilities must be at least 20 feet from energized electrical distribution lines and must not block the view of any sign.

In addition, the wireless facilities must be concealed to protect the city's aesthetic qualities.

Antennas may not extend more than 10 feet above the pole upon which it is mounted, and they may not be placed onto poles shorter than 15 feet.

Here's a look at some other issues addressed by the commission.

FEES, NOT PERMITS, WAIVED

Issue: Waiving some fees to help residents following Hurricane Irma.

What happened: Commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance waiving fees on drywall removal and repairing fences and screened enclosures due to damage from the hurricane. The action formalizes a practice instituted following the Sept. 20 meeting. It covers a 180-day period starting on Sept. 12. The ordinance does not negate the requirement to get a permit for work being done. And any requirements for detailed drawings would remain in effect.

SPEED LIMIT

Issue: Mandating a speed limit for a stretch of John Anderson Highway within the city limits.

What happened: The board voted unanimously to establish a 35-mph speed limit for that part of the road. City Manager Larry Newsom explained that any transition from one speed to another is supposed to be recognized by the agency enforcing the limit — in this case, the city. Though the road was already 35 by default, the transition from State Road 100 hadn't been formally recognized. "Apparently, this is something that should have been done eons ago," said Chair Jane Mealy.

©2017 The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.