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Cell Phone Tower an ‘Unacceptable Risk,’ Parents Tell Planning Commission

by Karen Goff September 29, 2016 at 10:30 am 23 Comments

Proposed cell tower (tree) at Crossfield ES/Courtesy VerizonAn elementary school is no place for a cell phone tower.

That was the message more than a dozen concerned neighbors and parents of students at Crossfield Elementary School told the Fairfax County Planning Commission in more than two hours of testimony Wednesday night.

A county planning staff report recommends approval of Milestone Communications’ application (on behalf of Verizon) for the tower, which they say is necessary to fill in gaps in coverage in the areas off Lawyers Road, including Reston’s Fox Mill Woods neighborhood adjacent to the school.

“This plan introduces an unacceptable safety risk,” said Chris Aiello, representing Parents Advocating for Safe Schools in Fairfax County, a grassroots group recently formed to take on Verizon’s request.

“It directly interferes with future expansion of school and fields. The applicant failed to meaningfully explore other sites. It defies logic placing a 138-foot tower 127 feet from a school.”

The pole, which would be built to look like an evergreen tree, would be able to carry signals from five mobile carriers. The pole would be on a 2,500-square-foot area surrounded by an 8-foot fence.

While the pole will be in a wooded area more than 200 feet from the school, the location is only 127 feet from the Crossfield playground, many citizens pointed out.

The pole will rise about 80 feet above the natural tree line, which Aiello called “a visual albatross.”

Other parents and neighbors had similar concerns. More than 30 Fairfax County Public Schools, including South Lakes High School, have cell towers on their property. However, only one FCPS elementary school has a tower, planning staff said. Parents said they are not willing to let their young children be test cases for radiation.

The cell phone companies pay the landowners to lease the pole space. FCPS, for instance, has made more than $4 million from the arrangement over the last several years, FCPS officials said.

Milestone collects rent from the wireless carriers on its towers, 40 percent of which goes to FCPS. Schools receive $25,000 each time a tower is built, and then $5,000 from each wireless carrier that leases space on the tower.

Other speakers said they were concerned the fenced tower enclosure would be everything from an “attractive nuisance” for pranks to a target for hackers.

Lisa Namerow, a nearby resident with a child set to enter Crossfield next year, said she is concerned about home values, among other things.

“The affected community is deeply opposed,” she said. “Research shows proximity of cell towers has a negative effect on homeowners.”

The planning commission also heard testimony from two Fox Mill Woods residents who said they cannot get coverage in their homes and the tower is needed.

Planning commissioners had questions on other high-tech ways to fill in coverage gaps (they would not work in this case, Milestone reps said) to the possibility of building the tower on Fairfax County Park Authority land nearby.

In the end, the planning commission deferred decision until Oct. 19, after they can get more information from the county’s Hunter Mill Land Use committee. The land use committee meets on Oct. 18.

Photo: Proposed cell phone tower at Crossfield Elementary School/Credit: Milestone Communications.

  • Rob

    Looks Real. You can’t even tell it’s a tower and not a tree.

    • Mike M

      Ever seen a real one? Photos can be deceiving.

      Some observations:
      1) Our County Planners are simply not accountable to voters except through the BoS which seems to be impossible to replace purely for reasons of political affiliation and NOT issues that matter at County level. Rubber match! For whom exactly do these “planners” work? Seems they are private sector all the way. It’s probably profitable in ways not openly tracked and hey, their ostensible bosses aren’t accountable to anyone, why should they not follow the money also?
      2) The risks may be negligible. They may be fiction. The need for towers can be articulated well. But why on school property? Is this another symptom of a school system and county government that will sell anything and tax anything to cover its inability to manage itself holistically? What’s next? Classroom sponsorship?
      3) The emotionalism at play when it comes to kids and safety knows no bounds in suburbia. I wasn’t overprotective of my kids, but looking back, had I been even less protective, they’d be even readier for the real world. They are OK. But I always noted the people who detested kids as 20-somethings, consciously swearing in front of them, arguing for uncensored movies on plane flights, yelling at them for any inconvenience they might cause, these are the same people who want to entire planet to bow down to their kids at every interaction direct or indirect.

      • Rob

        You’re thinking way too hard – I don’t care if they build it or not, or if it’s on school property or not. I just think it looks ridiculous. Not everything has to be a soapbox dissertation of the failings of government and society.

        • Mike M

          Rob, yes! I think hard and I did miss your sarcasm.
          And, yes, EVERYTHING for me must be a soapbox dissertation on the failings or successes of government and society.

          • Reston Realist

            ever think about seeing a shrink?

          • Mike M

            No. I know what I need. Why do you ask? Do you see dysfunction in someone making observations about the world around them? Do you see any unreality in what I wrote? Or are you just about the gratuitous insult? I can play that game too.

          • Reston Realist

            At least I enjoy reading your rants…

          • One Really

            So your suggesting something is wrong with seeing one?

            Its better than self medicating with a twelve pack, food, or something else.

      • One Really

        Paragraph 3 so true. The parents now with toddlers look at me like you don’t know how hard it is to raise this child. They have the stroller with 6 diaper bags and 6 gallons of formula for a 30 minute trip. 10 years ago they were cursing in the mall or bag snatching during Halloween.

  • Jack

    The only other FCPS elementary school that has a cell tower currently is Westgate Elementary School. The tower there was established in 2001, about 15 years ago. From Google map, it appears that tower is at least 300 feet from the school though. Totally agree that a 138-foot tower 127 feet from an elementary school doesn’t make any sense.

    • One Really

      Trust me during school year 2016-2017 there will be more after school van crashes than downed cell towers.

  • Richard

    The radio wave health argument is hocus pocus. The tower would be deep in the trees, invisible to any adjacent homes, so the property value argument is bunk too. So look, if the neighbors want to contribute to the school system the money that will be lost by not having the tower there, I’m all in favor of dumping the structure. Otherwise, the county is negligent for not accepting the money.

    • JoeInReston

      Not only do we benefit from the money but also from increased cell reception.

      • Richard

        True, but if the neighbors assure us that cell coverage is satisfactory and they’re willing to cover the lost income to the county, more power to them.

  • Rich_C

    A cell phone tower would be a target for hackers?

    • JoeInReston

      As hacking is mainly a cyber crime, what kind of cell phone tower hack would negatively effect the elementary school?

      • Guest

        I think we’re all on the same page. Nobody goes after towers. What a silly objection.

    • One Really

      They might hack it and unscrew the ground straps????

  • Terpitude

    The only way that tower is going to fall down is from a hurricane or tornado. No kids will be on the playground during a severe weather event.

    Not a single one of their safety concerns is legitimate. The only thing these people are worried about is property values, which would likely increase with better cell phone service. I’m sure they’re fine using the cell phone towers erected in other peoples’ neighborhoods.

  • RadRosie

    A cell tower was placed next to our grandchild’s elementary school. The grand child developed childhood lupus. A cell tower was placed next to my property and I have had very serious health issues. People looking at a property next to mine asked about the tower and said they heard it was unsafe. There are thousands of independent studies showing biological harm from Radio Frequency Radiation. Most recently a National Toxicology Program study showed a significant increase in brain tumors in male rats and this was at levels of exposure less than FCC thermal guidelines. American Academy of Pediatrics Issues New Recommendations to “Reduce Exposure to Cell Phones” – Releasewire, 26th September 2016.

    • Chloe Wilkerson

      The method by which the NTP group chose to publish their data did not follow the widely accepted rigorous, peer review process that serious scientists follow. Instead of submitting their data to a journal to be reviewed by experts in the field who are chosen by the journal editors (in order to have a thorough, independent
      review), the NTP group chose to send bits & pieces of their data & analysis to a handful of scientists of their own choosing. Additionally, the NTP group asked these scientists to evaluate their data & analysis in a very narrow manner. Instead of asking the reviewers if their data supported their conclusions, they asked questions like, are our calculations done correctly? So, yes the study did show an increase in tumors in male rats; however, it didn’t definitively show a connection between RF exposure & the growth of tumors.

    • Scott H

      I drove by a cell tower and a few days later, I caught a cold. The link is obvious! Sorry Rosie, but despite the fact that you keep cutting and pasting this same comment, there are not “Thousands” of studies. That is quite literally, impossible, plus you NEVER post a link to even one. Sorry for your and your grandchild’s health issues, but there is no legitimate way for you to show causation from a cell phone tower. Nutrasweet causes the same symptoms in rats. Have you ever had a Diet Coke?
      Cell phone towers are everywhere. There not “clusters” of disease in proximity to cell towers.

  • Arielle in NoVA

    The only one of these concerns that really is a good reason to move the tower farther from the school – or elsewhere near the school – is that the tower might interfere with future school expansions where it is.


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