DuPage County once again raising concerns about cell antenna law
Nearly two years after failing to stop an Illinois law that gives wireless companies the ability to install small cell antennas on publicly owned utility poles, streetlights and rights of way, DuPage County officials are hoping to convince state and federal lawmakers to address concerns about the devices.
Residents in recent months have complained to county board members about plans to put antenna boxes on streetlights and utility poles as part of the rollout of 5G technology in their towns.
"I'm not against technological progress by any means," said board member Greg Hart, a Hinsdale Republican. "But I know a number of my constituents do have some serious concerns about what this will do to the aesthetics of their neighborhoods and their property values."
Some worry about the radio-frequency energy emitted by the devices.
"There are a lot of tests that show that 5G is not safe for humans," Hinsdale resident Christine Trainer recently told county officials. "We need you to take a stand."
DuPage and other counties and municipalities across the state opposed the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act because it severely limited their authority to regulate small cell antennas. Still, the measure became law in June 2018.
"It did significantly limit the control we had over the right of way," Assistant State's Attorney Barbara Reynolds said during a recent meeting of the county's transportation committee.
Reynolds said the legislation also established caps on what local governments could charge for permits and recurring annual fees.
Then, in January 2019, the FCC issued a ruling that, among other things, affirmed the limits on local control, established maximum fee amounts, and reduced the time local governments have to review permit applications.
The FCC ruling also confirmed that local governments cannot deny a permit based on radio frequency emissions.
Still, county board member Jim Zay says there should be restrictions on where the antenna boxes can be located.
"They shouldn't be in residential neighborhoods," the Carol Stream Republican said. "They shouldn't be in front of somebody's house."
So DuPage is planning to lobby state lawmakers to restore local control over public infrastructure. The county's proposed 2020 legislative program also calls on the state to "further examine any potential adverse public health impacts of the deployment of small cell technology."
"We're trying to now go back to our legislators and say, 'Now that you see what the reality is, perhaps you can take a look at this and try to mitigate some of the problems that are going to come from it,'" said county board member Sam Tornatore, chairman of the county's legislative and government affairs committee. "Hopefully, it doesn't fall on deaf ears."
The Roselle Republican said he hopes state lawmakers take the issue "a little more seriously" now that residents are voicing their concerns.
In addition to lobbying state officials, Tornatore said he expects DuPage will assign its federal lobbyist "to see if we can mitigate the problem there as well."
"It may be a hard sell because you're dealing with giant telecom companies," Tornatore said. But he said it's worth trying.