By Jacob Wilson/Garden Grove Journal
Sorry new iPhone users, but now might be a good time to switch to Sprint.
Even without Mayor Margie Rice in attendance, the Westminster City Council approved a plan to add new antennas to an existing wireless facility that serves local Sprint customers. The plan would add three panel antennas, three microwave dishes and one GPS antenna.
Currently the facility holds six panel antennas and one GPS antenna. The site is on a 150-foot tall utility transmissions tower located at 7451 Westminster Blvd. Southern California Edison owns the property.
The Westminster Planning Commission originally approved the plan’s application on April 21 after holding a public hearing. At the time no one spoke against the plan. But in a letter dated April 12, Westminster resident Angelina Juarez asked the commission to deny the application.
Juarez wrote another letter on April 30 appealing the decision. That prompted the City Council to hold its own hearing.
Westminster planning manager Art Bashmakian told the Council that the proposed project was well within health standards set by the Federal Communications Commission.
“The FCC has health standards established but facilities above 33 feet are exempt from health issues,” he said. “The lowest antenna is 54 feet above the ground so the project is in compliance with the FCC.”
John Moreland, the project’s applicant, spoke in favor of the new plan and agreed that it does not pose a public health risk. Moreland is a representative of Core Communications and an authorized agent for Sprint and Nextel.
Moreland said the additional antennas and dishes are necessary to keep up with new 4G technology. The new antennas and microwave dishes will expand broadband services to Sprint customers, he told the Council.
Juarez did not attend the hearing but Westminster resident Dawn Hyatt spoke against the project. Her biggest concern was public health but she also cited fear of a growing dependence on technology.
“I think the Council should be cautious and move slowly when approving these types of items,” she said.
Hyatt suggested that the project could be moved to a less populated area.
“There are already towers right behind Edison that are near a cemetery and a golf course,” she said. “Building there would have a much smaller residential impact.”
Moreland said that the nearest residential property to the proposed site was 100 feet away. Given the height of the antennas, Moreland believed the distance was more than enough to alleviate health concerns.
Councilmember Tri Ta said that even if the Council wanted to oppose the project, it couldn‘t go against the FCC.
“A local government is prohibited from denying a project if it falls within FCC regulations,” he said. “We have to comply.”
Councilmember Andy Quach noted that the new microwave dishes would have a wattage output that was far below FCC standards.
“The FCC allows a maximum 1,640 watt output from a microwave dish,” he said. “These dishes will only put out 160 watts.”
Quach also liked the fact that the new antennas and dishes were being built on an existing structure and that a new tower was not going up.
“Being that the tower is already there, I am comfortable with moving forward with this application,” he said.