PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners are preparing to take up the Clallam County Planning Commission’s recommended changes to the county’s wireless facilities ordinance during a public hearing slated for mid-July.
Commissioner Mark Ozias said during a work session Monday that with the voluminous public testimony regarding health concerns over 5G technology, county staff will need to make it clear how they reached their proposal.
Ozias said it is clear from the testimony, which was taken during several Planning Commission meetings and via email, that people who are concerned about 5G want the county to be as careful as possible when moving forward.
The public hearing is set for 10:30 a.m. July 16 during the Board of County Commissioners’ meeting at the Clallam County Courthouse.
“Knowing this is something the public is concerned about tells me, as we move forward with this, we should be as thorough as possible and use every opportunity to help the public understand what we have done to get to this point,” Ozias said.
The current ordinance allows 5G technology, and what is being proposed would add more regulations for the technology.
During public meetings, members of the community have urged county officials to defy federal law by prohibiting the deployment of 5G technology in Clallam County.
They cited health concerns over the new technology, which uses microcells for wireless networks. The technology promises faster speeds when connecting to the network and the ability to connect many devices to the internet without bogging it down.
The Clallam County Planning Commission recommended an amendment to the county’s wireless communications facilities ordinance in April. The ordinance does not specifically address 5G, but much of the discussion about the ordinance has revolved around the technology.
On Monday, officials recommended inviting Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank and Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Alvarez to the public hearing to discuss health concerns and the county’s limitations on regulating the technology.
Unthank has previously told the planning commission that studies show that 5G is not hazardous to health.
“Radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation has been extensively studied by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and [World Health Organization] since the 1970s, when these concerns were first raised,” Unthank said in an email.
“These studies have found no consistent association between exposure to electromagnetic radiation in the amounts experienced in the average American home and increased risks of cancer, depression, cardiovascular disorders or reproductive dysfunction.”
Ozias cited concerns about 5G, but his questions pertained to the logistics of how the county could handle the number of permits that would be required if a wireless network wanted to bring 5G to Clallam County.
Ozias said that “one of the things fundamentally different” about 5G technology is that the antennas need to be much closer together, meaning there could be more permits needed in order to implement the technology.
Principal Planner Kevin LoPiccolo said the ordinance addresses that. If a wireless network wants to install multiple antennas, it would require a single application and a process that involves notification of those nearby and use of the hearings examiner.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].