Montgomery Co. residents want a say on cell tower proposal

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Residents in North Potomac, Gaithersburg and Germantown remain concerned about whether 30-foot tall cell towers will pop up in their neighborhoods, or even their front yards and they want to be heard before the Montgomery County Council weighs in.

On Monday, Council President Nancy Floreen said she understood that residents want more information on the proposed zoning amendment that would allow Crown Castle to install dozens of 30-foot-tall structures, which the company calls “small cell solutions.”

But she couldn’t say exactly when or how that would happen.

“I’ve asked staff how that might be structured,” Floreen told reporters.

The proposed zoning changes could deny residents any say in where those new cell towers might be located and would allow the 30-foot high poles to be placed in the public right of way in residential areas.

Clusters of residents who oppose the proposed zoning changes filled a Council committee meeting. And they made clear that residents want some input on where the smaller cell towers would be placed.

Floreen said the council is looking into holding some kind of public forum.

“I don’t anticipate us getting to this for a while. And hopefully at least some of the detailed questions that people have will get answered in the interim period,” she said.

Some of the residents who object to the zoning changes want emergency legislation that would require a public notification of the proposal to erect the towers at each site where they are being proposed.

Asked if she could support such a change, Floreen said, “well, that’s an idea.” She said the council “is certainly looking at a range of ways to address this.”

Under the plans submitted by Crown Castle, 40 additional antennae would be installed as modifications to existing towers. North Potomac resident Andy Spivak, who started a petition to urge the council to reject the zoning amendment said, those 40 are not at issue. They’d go on existing towers in the process known as “collocation.”

What concerns residents, Spivak said, is a proposal to add up to 80 additional antennae that would go on towers that stand no more than 30 feet tall. Under the proposed zoning changes, there would be no public input on those—they would be exempt from the current restrictions. Those towers could be placed in the public right of way in front of homes with a minium setback of 30 feet from a detached house or duplex.

On its website, Crown Castle describes the smaller towers as “small cell solutions” and states the smaller towers are “the least visually intrusive type of wireless infrastructure solution in neighborhoods, historical districts and other areas where a larger tower isn’t a feasible solution.”

In some instances, the additional antennae could be put on existing light poles or utility poles. In areas where utilities are underground, residents said they object to adding the towers.

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