AV Council Denies Appeal Of Verizon Cell Tower Approval At Mendel Park

The Apple Valley Town Council this week turned down a request by a resident that it reverse the town planning commission’s approval last month of Verizon’s plan to place a 60-foot high cellular tower in Mendel Park.
Mendel Park is adjacent to Mariana Academy, a school which caters to kindergartners through eighth grade students, as well as to preschoolers. Town resident Linda Repp asserted it is ill-advised to place the cell tower, from which emanate radio transmissions on a constant basis, near the school site where children are present for up to seven hours on weekdays. Repp appealed the planning commission’s May 16 decision to the town council, asking them to rescind Verizon’s permit for the tower.
According to a summary of the matter provided to the town council by Carol Miller, the town’s assistant director of community development, “The appellant contends that the commission disregarded the international precautionary [separation] standard for wireless telecommunication of 1,500 feet from schools and playgrounds. The proposed tower is approximately thirty-six feet from the school property to the north. Although the project required deviations to some requirements, this thirty-six foot setback to the northerly property line exceeds the minimum setback requirement of twenty-two-and-one-half-feet. Wireless telecommunication proposals are governed by regulations of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and are required to transmit signals on frequencies that will not interfere with other electronic equipment (e.g., fire, police, emergency radio frequencies, etc.). The Telecommunications Act determined that electromagnetic fields associated with wireless telecommunication facilities do not pose a health risk and are required to conform with the standards established by the American National Standard Institute for safe human exposure to electromagnetic fields and radio frequencies.”
Accordingly, Miller, speaking on behalf of town staff, recommended that the town council deny Repp’s appeal.
Repp cited data to indicate that cellular towers present a health risk to those who live or spend a significant amount of time near one, including elevating in children rates of autism and cancer, particularly cancer of the blood such as leukemia. She cited the Los Angeles Unified School District’s banning of cell towers at its schools in making her appeal.
Karen Mendel, whose parents donated the Mendel Park property to the town, had sought to appeal the planning commission approval as well, but was unable to do so because she did not meet the town’s requirement that the appeal be filed within 10 calendar days of the project approval.
At Tuesday night’s hearing of the appeal, councilwoman Barb Stanton noted that the fire department has cell towers at its fire stations.
“If it’s good enough for our firemen who live in those stations day and night, then it’s good enough for our park,” she said.
Councilman Curt Emick cited the consideration that Verizon provides the communication link to the in-car computers used by the sheriff’s department to assert that the cell tower will improve general public safety.
Councilman Larry Cusack, who is the owner of Apple Valley Communications and deals in electronic devices using wireless technology such as cell phones, summarized the favorable attitude on the council toward Verizon and letting the project proceed. He said, “[With] the service in Apple Valley there is not very good coverage. The more and more devices and the more and more equipment that goes on these services, the less service we get unless we add services. I know we’ve got quite a few of these facilities in our parks already and our Town Hall just to try to service the community and not have them in the back yards of residents and those things, but I know that the state wants to deregulate it and put ‘em everywhere, you know, small towers in all locations on telephone poles everywhere through the valley, so this is going to be an ongoing thing that goes on forever because we are going to be a wireless community for everything that we do. Being a radio person, I know the frequencies that go on and stuff, and these are actually lower frequencies, not microwave frequencies that are or can be harmful. When I was working on towers, you had to be away from it, but these are the lower frequencies, which are not as [dangerous]. And it’s low power, too. These are not high power, high wattage facilities. We do have these at a lot of the parks and there are probably going to be a lot of applications for more areas in our community. I don’t know how many are still out there, but north Apple Valley is having all kinds of trouble and I know down by Apple Valley Road and that area there’ a bunch of dead areas. So there’s going to be more of these facilities coming up, so we have to be prepared for them.”
A Verizon representative said having the cell tower would be a good thing.
Residents who weighed in on the matter, however, were against erecting the cell tower at Mendel Park.
Al Rice, who was the manager of a large cell phone company for several years, said, “I have knowledge about this technology and its technological obsolescence. Japan is ahead of the United States,” he said, “developing towers that go into the ground and make [above ground] towers non-existent, as they [the Japanese] place high value on nature and their environment. Recommend that this be returned to the planning commission for analysis and a vote by all five members, not just three. Why are there no residents in support of this tower?”
Lawrence McCarthy told the council, “I started working with and researching the contamination of electromagnetic fields back in 1970. I may have more hands-on experience shielding sites from electromagnetic fields than anyone in this room. In 1970, I personally observed birds in cold weather that flew through an electromagnetic beam that was directed from one tower to another tower. They would turn around and fly back through the beam. These were cold days. In just a few passes they would flutter and they would be dead before they hit the ground. These are the same type of electromagnetic fields we are talking about here today, coming from radio, TV or cell towers. In 2000 it was suggested to keep these towers 300 to 400 meters away from residences or any places people tend to gather for any extended time, which is residences, hospitals, parks and schools, especially schools. 300 meters is 985 feet. That’s more than three football fields. 400 meters is eight feet less than a quarter of a mile. Several governments in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon and the Los Angeles School District are restricting these towers to one quarter mile from these occupied sites. This is a problem that cannot be ignored and in my opinion, a quarter mile restriction should never be reduced for any reason.”
A woman verbally identified by Mayor Art Bishop only as J. Valnezzi said, “I read the staff report and it said the FCC stance is there’s not harmful effects. But that’s not exactly the stance of the FCC on these radio frequency towers. In fact, if there was no harmful effects, there wouldn’t be so many organizations dedicated to regulating and issuing safety guidelines, one of which being the American National Standards Institute, which, I believed worked with the FCC to issue the verifications for Verizon. So there are guidelines, there are things that are in place because we don’t know everything about this technology, and it would be really wrong of us to just think, ‘Well, if we don’t know, let’s just go ahead and go forth with it.’ If I told you there might or might not be some contaminated water, would you drink it? No. You would err on the side of caution. Barb Stanton, you said, ‘If it’s good enough for the firefighters, then it’s good enough for everyone else.’ The thing I have with that is the firefighters go there to work. They do that voluntarily. School children are required by law to attend school. If they are in that area, they have to go there. That’s different from people who work voluntarily. “
Valnezzi said city staff and the council were biased in favor of Verizon and against the appellant. This was demonstrable, she said, in the way the town was waiving certain requirements for Verizon, but insisting that those challenging the approval Verizon was given must strictly adhere to the city’s protocol in attempting to effectuate an appeal. She cited the municipal code section relating to deviations. “It does say it allows for minor exceptions to be made,” Valnezzi said. “It does not allow for large scale ones.” With regard to setbacks she said, “That sounds like a major deviation. You guys have allowed so many deviations for this tower to be built that you bend over backwards to make things happen for this tower, yet you won’t allow someone to present their appeal.” Valnezzi’s reference was to insisting that the developmental code be strictly adhered to such that appeals have to be received within ten calendar days of approval.
“I don’t mind the tower being built, but you can move it somewhere else,” she said, and then cited the town’s motto. “This is Apple Valley: A better way of life. That’s for your citizens. That’s not for Verizon.”
The appellant, Linda Repp, addressed the council.
“The telecommunications tower in Mendel Park is unwanted and unneeded by the residents of Apple Valley,” she said. “The town council has the right to deny placement. This placement is dangerous and reckless. The California Public Utilities Code 7901 states ‘Tower placement should not impede or obstruct public use of land.’ The tower would obstruct the full use of the park by the public. The closer you are to the towers, the more radiation you receive.”
She said the town was approving the tower and its placement “for financial gain only and would ignore the safety of its residents, especially its children. I do not understand how a dollar amount could be put on our children’s safety.”
The town council voted unanimously to deny Repp’s appeal.
-Mark Gutglueck

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