County planners approve communications tower for Maui site

County planners approve communications tower for Maui site
(Image: Hawaii News Now/file)

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) — The Maui Planning Commission has approved a permit for a communications tower that would serve as a backup system in emergency situations.

The county commission responded to residents’ concerns by prohibiting the use of 5G wireless technology at the West Maui site, The Maui News reported Wednesday.

The Maui County Department of Public Works sought a special use permit for the site to replace the Maui Police Department’s communications facility in Makila.

The new facility would be employed exclusively by government agencies, with the police department as the primary user, project documents said.

Project plans call for building a tower standing 85 feet (26 meters) with five microwave antennas and a single-story radio equipment building in Launiupoko.

The site would allow the tower to use point-to-point microwave technology to communicate with the police department’s existing facilities in Ulupalakua and East Molokai and another planned facility in Lahainaluna.

Walter Pacheco, the Maui police communications coordinator, said the facility was not designed or intended for use with 5G wireless technology.

The project spurred opposition from residents who said they were concerned about the tower opening the door to 5G, which is the newest global standard for mobile networks.

Resident Debra Greene expressed concerns about potential damage to plants and insects from wireless towers using 5G and reduced property values in the area from changes in aesthetics.

She and others who submitted testimony to the planning commission asked why the police could not use alternative technologies such as fiber optics.

The police department does not use fiber optics, but past fires resulting from the technology’s infrastructure have damaged equipment and caused outages, Pacheco said.

The point-to-point microwave technology to be used at the facility links locations to move information and does not connect to individual devices like 5G technology, Pacheco said.

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