Md. community opposes plans to put cell nodes in front lawns

WASHINGTON — Cell antennae mounted atop 30-foot-tall steel poles are planned for some Montgomery County residential neighborhoods, but residents in North Potomac are opposing plans to mount the nodes their community.

“The marginal benefit of these cell towers being thrown up on front lawns does not outweigh the negative impact,” said Andy Spivak of North Potomac, who has started an online petition against the cell nodes.

Spivak said when a Gaithersburg neighborhood turned out at a public hearing to oppose the cell nodes Montgomery County Councilwoman Nancy Floreen sought an amendment to the zoning laws that would permit the installation of the nodes without any public hearings.

“If I had a chance to voice my opinion, I would literally have one question for the council member and that is, ‘Would you want one of these things on your front lawn? You put one on your front lawn and maybe I’ll reconsider my position,’” Spivak said.

Opposition in North Potomac is generally because telephone cables are buried underground in the neighborhood so in the absence of telephone poles, 30 foot tall steel poles would have to erected to bear the cell antenna.

Floreen said the county expects about 170 requests for permission to add the cell nodes to county telephone poles. She describes the antenna as “about the size of a stereo speaker.”

“We’ll certainly review all the concerns raised,” Floreen said.

Crown Castle, the wireless carrier behind the project, said the cell nodes are discreet and well-suited for residential neighborhoods. The company’s website said “there are no adverse health effects from cellular signals,” which the antennae would relay.

“There are serious health concerns and safety concerns that we really can’t ascertain that could be 30 years down the road,” Spivak said.

Spivak said he hopes to rally opposition at an expected county council meeting on the matter Sept.  12.

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