December 9, 2020
Dear Santa Rosa Island Authority Commissioners,
On Monday, December 7th, 3 of our Pensacola Beach Advocate board members met with Paolo Ghio, Dr. Campanella, Commissioner Bender, legal counsel for Escambia, and several members from Verizon via a zoom call. The discussion was about placement of 5g small wireless facilities (SWF) in public row without any public hearing or notice to residents. In other words, one day you wake up and a tall, ugly, green pole - transmitting what some people believe to be very unhealthy high frequency radiation - is installed in order to implement 5g technology. What we learned was astonishing.
First of all, Verizon has a plan to install approximately 20 SWF on the beach. At the meeting, Paolo stated that he has the master plan and we requested a copy of it. This process began 18 months ago yet no documents were ever presented to the Island authority for review, nor did the design or placement of the poles go through a committee. Lawsuits for various different reasons have been filed across the country to stop the rollout of 5g technology. Health concerns, environmental impact and violations of state and local laws are just a few of the reasons cited for these lawsuits. Many cities who began the rollout early have now stopped due to the overwhelming number of complaints from residents who believe that these poles affect property value, are aesthetically ugly and don’t compliment their neighborhood surroundings, and are too close to their homes. In fact this industry specifically asked the state of Florida to pass a law to waive their requirement to hold public hearings about the placement of these poles because it is such a controversial issue. They did…..hence all the cities and municipalities filing suit both in Florida and around the country.
In 2018, Escambia County adopted an ordinance to regulate matters regarding the placement and aesthetics of these (swf). I asked the county permitting department about the process and they stated that “if Mr. Ghio had not approved the applications then they would not have approved the application.” The county also has negotiating rights as to where these poles can be placed. I am assuming that according to the terms of local, state and Federal rules we would have begun a negotiation process. During this time we could have asked for an environmental impact study as it affects the nesting birds, turtles, and humans, or we could have held a public hearing on placement and design. I asked if they were going to install them in the national seashore and he said no. We could have created our own guidelines to an extent but none of that was done. We could have argued as the law and our ordinance contends that we are a barrier island and barrier islands matching certain requirements are exempt. It was pointed out to me that we are not our own municipality nor do we have our own governance. Well it doesn’t look that way under your website page entitled “who we are”, and the permitting started here. The point is that the approval and placement of these ugly and highly controversial 5g poles (swf) started here, there was no public notice, and the telecom industry wants it that way for a reason.
Now here is what else we learned,
-they have no idea how many more applications they will need to make
-the powers that be at Verizon have no idea where these poles are or how close they are to our homes
-they could not tell us what the final inspection plan will be before they are turned on.
-Paolo did not know who from the county or from Verizon would be doing a final inspection or when they would be active. A subcontractor is responsible for the installation.
As Dr. Campanella asked “Why did you start at the beach?” They replied “usage.” Really?
Please do not allow any more installations (Including those applied for and approved) until proper studies and reviews are completed. Please present the master plan and hold public hearings. Please consider a design that is more conducive to the island, and please review the legislation to insure that we actually have to place them on the beach. Dr. Campanella also commented in our meeting that perhaps there should be a moratorium until the technology is more fully understood.