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Council OKs Cellular Antenna Permit Moratorium

Officials are worried about safety and aesthetics. City will use the 45-day ban to develop standards.


Citing inadequate guidelines for approving cellular antenna site proposals, the City Council passed a 45-day moratorium on permits for antennas.

The decision came after representatives from Sprint and Pac Bell at the council meeting Wednesday said it would be unfair to include the existing applications for antenna sites in a moratorium.

The council decided to exempt the companies' four conditional use permit applications from the moratorium. Their applications were at various stages of the approval process and filed before Wednesday.

Council members have expressed concern over the growing number of requests to install antennas since their impact on the community is unknown.

During the moratorium, city staff members will develop a proposed ordinance specifically for telecommunications antennas.

Cellular phone antenna towers are a growing phenomenon in Southern California, popping up in some communities at the rate of three per week.

"We need this period of time to develop standards," Councilwoman Joy L. Neugebauer said. "There has been a proliferation of applications, and although one antenna might not be harmful, what about eight or nine or 10?"

Currently, cellular antennas, phones and other wireless communication devices are required to meet the radio frequency radiation (RFR) exposure guidelines of the Federal Communications Commission, which were most recently revised in August 1996.

The possibility of having a conglomeration of antennas from several companies on one site has raised concerns about safety and aesthetics.

"There are no current laws regarding a group of antennas," said Mark Brewer, the city's public information officer, who has been researching cellular regulations around the country.

Previously, he said a grouping of five or more sets of antennas might exceed radio frequency emission standards. The city's moratorium states that the action was taken to "protect the public health, safety and welfare."

Although antenna permits for public telecommunications companies are on hold, the moratorium allows the City Council to approve antennas used for emergency agencies, such as the police and fire departments.

Alex Murashko can be reached at (714) 966-5974.

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