City of Napa planners delay decision on Jackson Street Dish Wireless antenna | Local News

A new Dish Wireless telecommunications facility that’s planned to go on top of the building at 846 Jackson St. — part of a larger effort to establish a new wireless network in Napa — won’t be moving forward for now, as the city of Napa’s Planning Commission voted to delay making a decision on the facility last week.

The commission previously approved a Dish Wireless antenna at the Justin-Siena High School football stadium back in March. At the time, Alison Holleman, a site acquisition manager for the Martinez-based The CBR Group, said Dish was planning to launch a new wireless network to join the three existing carriers in Napa in mid-2023.

Holleman said essentially the same thing at the Thursday meeting, adding that the new carrier and additional wireless capacity will benefit Napa residents.

“Dish Wireless will be the fourth wireless carrier who will provide additional wireless services, similar to AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, enabling customers the option to switch carriers, and that will also enable offloading network capacity of the existing carriers,” Holleman said. . “This is strategically beneficial to Napa’s residents, especially in times of emergency, such as fires, floods and earthquakes, which Napa is no stranger to. And it will provide support during these events when the network is continually at capacity or the carriers are overloaded.”

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But this time around, the commissioners expressed discomfort moving forward with approval. That’s because they hadn’t been able to review the radio frequency safety report prior to the meeting, owing to a city staff error. Additionally, the applicant hadn’t brought anyone along who could answer technical questions, despite the commissioners asking them to do so when approving the Justin-Siena installation in March.

Notably, federal law prohibits local municipalities from turning down wireless projects out of the belief that they’re unsafe. Michael Allen, senior city planner, has previously told the commission that the city has to essentially rely on the engineering done in the radio frequency report to determine whether the project is safe or not.

Nonetheless, the commissioners asked questions about the engineering to Holleman and Christy Beltran, president of the CBR group. Commissioner Paul Kelley, for example, asked about the height of the proposed installation, noting that the Justin-Sienna antenna was approved to go roughly 20 feet higher than the installation in question on Thursday. He also asked if there was a minimum vertical clearance the applicant would be using.

Beltran responded by saying they weren’t in the right profession to answer Kelley’s technical questions, and that, as required, they’d provided the radio frequency safety report. Beltran also told the commission she could provide a link to frequently asked questions for the Federal Communications Commission, and those might be able to answer the questions. She said she’d ask Dish about bringing an engineer along next time they bring a telecommunications facility proposal to the commission.

“All we’ve done so far is provide, as part of the planning application requirements, is providing the radio frequency emissions report and that report takes into consideration where the antennas are located,” Beltran said.

The commission voted unanimously to continue the item after commissioners said they didn’t feel like they had all the information they needed and that the proposed facility could be hazardous to health.

Commissioner Bob Massaro also asked the applicants to next time bring along a representative from the fire department, or get a statement from the agency, given that firefighters might have to go on the roof in case of a fire.

“In the last meeting, we were talking about mounting antennas that were a good 20 feet above the proposal for this one,” Kelley said. “And I know it’s based on distance and all of that. We did not have, I felt like we didn’t get questions answered then. And I think really in the design review, the design is fine, but it’s really a safety issue. So it’s hard for me to, without getting this last piece of information here, it’s hard for me to really make a definitive choice.”

You can reach Edward Booth at 707-256-2213.