For $20K Yearly, AV To Host Verizon Cell Tower At Park

Less than a month after its June 26 rejection of resident Linda Repp’s appeal of the planning commissions May 16 approval of Verizon’s proposal to erect a cell tower at Mendel Park, the Apple Valley Town Council on a 5-0 vote last week approved a lease agreement with Verizon for that facility. In exchange for $20,400 annually and Verizon’s assurance it will construct the tower in the likeness of a Eucalyptus tree, the council gave go-ahead to the project.
Repp presented 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. The use of the park property for the cell tower location was also opposed by Karen Mendel, whose parents donated the Mendel Park property to the town, though Mendel was unable to launch an official appeal of the planning commission approval because she did not meet the town’s requirement that the appeal be filed within 10 calendar days of the commission’s vote.
In rejecting Repp’s objections to the placement of the tower near the park and its playgrounds as well as adjoining Mariana Academy, which serves preschool through eighth-grade students, the council members downplayed those concerns. Councilwoman Barb Stanton, noting that the fire department has cell towers at its fire stations, said, “If it’s good enough for our firemen who live in those stations day and night, then it’s good enough for our park.” 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, said the proliferation of cell phones among Apple Valley resident was overwhelming the ability of existing facilities to facilitate calls and data exchanges, asserting, “[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. North Apple Valley is having all kinds of trouble, and I know down by Apple Valley Road and that area there’s a bunch of dead areas.” He said the electromagnetic emanations from such towers are safe. “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.”
At any rate, according to Town Attorney Thomas Rice, the town, like all local jurisdictions, is not permitted to consider the safety or health risks associated with such facilities because the U.S. Congress and the Federal Communications Commission have set the criteria by which such towers are to be located. Both the planning commission and the city council were prohibited by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 from utilizing radio-frequency emissions as factor in determining the placement of the cell-tower, Rice said.
-Mark Gutglueck

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