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November 13, 2005

OPPOSING CELL TOWERS AND CELL ANTENNAS

The Daily Sentinel
Environmentally Speaking

Communities everywhere are the target of proposed cell towers and cell antennas. The equation is simple: the more people who use cell phones, the more antennas have to be erected.

Affluent neighborhoods are most at risk. That’s because they are more likely to use more cell phones, which means they are more likely to require new antennas.

Cell companies understand that no one wants these ugly eyesores in their own neighborhoods. For years, they picked the easier locations. They favored non residential areas, industrial areas where possible. Even today, cell companies try to avoid residential areas because they do not want the fights that inevitably occur if they try to go there.

The problem is that in many places, the non offending locations have already been chosen and are in use. Which means that many US communities are now being asked to host cell antennas in the middle of residential neighborhoods.

What you need to know if a cell company is targeting your neighborhood:

Federal law preempts some state laws regarding placement of cell towers. But, local land use law still applies. Neighbors should not be misled into believing that they cannot win a cell tower location fight.

Every municipality must allow cell towers somewhere. Make sure that your municipality has a smart zoning ordinance that allows cell towers in only suitable locations.

Cell companies argue that these towers are not dangerous. But many studies are not conclusive. You need to decide whether you trust studies on this issue.

Many municipalities secretly wan to install towers on municipal buildings because they can make a lot of revenue. Make sure that these deals are in the open, and that community members are given a chance to comment.

Cell companies are entitled to good coverage, not perfect coverage. Sometimes a more suitable and appropriate location may provide slightly less coverage, but nonetheless adequate coverage.

These cell companies come, install their towers, and leave. They really do not care about your community or the effect installation will have on it.

Often cell companies must prove need before a new tower location can be approved. Take a close look at how this is being done. Is the data reliable and can it be replicated? Is this just a product of computer modeling, or are people complaining of dropped calls as well.

This is not an easy business. Cell companies rely on seasoned professionals to win local approvals. This means that communities seeking to oppose towers must also retain good lawyers and good experts. You cannot win without the best talent available.

Communities that oppose a tower placement must unite and work together. While few people can afford to foot the bill alone several families working together can often foot the bill and win.

Copyright 2005 The Daily Sentinel

November 13, 2005