Residents Testify in Unanimous Opposition to Cell Tower ZTA 22-01 at a Truncated Daytime Public Hearing

Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 22-01, Antenna on Existing Structure – Use Standards
Tuesday, September 13, 2022, 1:30 – 2:30pm

ZTA 22-01 lets carriers turn utility and light poles into cell towers just 30 feet from homes, with no prior notice to nearby residents and no chance for hearing or appeal.

The Council conducted a truncated afternoon public hearing despite letters from hundreds of residents urging Council President Gabe Albornoz (At-Large) to either cancel all action on the ZTA and let the incoming Council review cell-tower zoning issues, or at least schedule a full, evening hearing to allow time for many more residents eager to testify against it. More than two dozen residents on the wait list were never given an opportunity to testify at the hearing. Casey Anderson (Head of the Planning Board appointed by Hans Riemer and the Council) was given a priority and took up a speakers slot and then deviated from that topic to talk about zoning on pools and their enclosures. Not a single resident testified in favor—only Casey, Crown Castle and MD 5G Partnership.

Placing cell towers close to homes is harmful and unfair to residents and neighborhoods.

It is incumbent on all policy makers to fulfill their fiduciary duty and protect their constituents by enacting laws and ordinances in their interest, not the self-serving telecom and utility industries.

Watch the entire hearing testimony starting here:

Speaker highlights from the public hearing: (The below YouTube videos will open at a bookmark to the listed speaker.)

Name Representing Time
Mayor Jeffrey Slavin, Somerset Individual
Laura Simon Ethiogreen
Deborah Norris, Ph.D. Individual
Rick Meyer MC4T.ORG
Robert J. Montgomery Clear Vistas
Sue P. Individual
Susan L. Individual
Susannah G. Individual
Theodora Scarato, MSW Environmental Health Trust
Colleen C. Community Vision for Takoma
Anna O. Individual
Michelle B. Individual
Katherine K. Individual

Top reasons for opposing Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 22-01: Effects are harmful and unfair to residents and neighborhoods

  • The FCC’s recent big loss in court proves what residents warned all along: The Council can’t trust the FCC’s safety standards for wireless radiation to protect our families. A federal appeals court ruled that the FCC failed to show that its 25-year-old safety limits for wireless radiation are based on science! Residents have asked the Council to wait for the FCC to justify or provide a reasoned explanation based on science for its RF limits.
  • ZTA 22-01 takes aim at the rights-of-ways in residential zones that abut homes that are on smaller lots and have shorter setbacks. Persons of color and persons of low and modest incomes live in these homes with greater frequency than the County population at large. See New Report by Project WTF: SAY NO to Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 22-01 — Effects are harmful and unfair to residents and neighborhoods.
  • Montgomery County has a broken process for review and oversight of cell towers which should be addressed before any new laws are enacted. Examples exist of towers built too tall, too close to homes, with too many antennas — even at the wrong address!
  • Corporate Welfare, Compliments of Taxpayers:  Corporations prefer to place cell towers in public rights-of-way since they can use our land at cost rather than negotiate a rate with a private property owner: It’s a much more profitable business model.
  • 5G would be a huge new energy hog — intensifying our climate crisis. Energy experts estimate that wireless internet communication technologies could be responsible for 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, undermining our efforts to combat climate change. Many trees also would likely have to be cut down for 5G towers –– a further climate cost.
  • 5G has major cyber security problems by providing millions of entry points for hackers into key utilities and infrastructure.
  • 5G is designed to support 3 million wireless devices per square mile, digitizing our entire lives and monitoring behavior 24/7 with massive invasions of privacy–– a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
  • The NSA reports, “Focusing predominantly on 5G technology, the implications of privacy and security are contrasted across the competing requirements of high- speed, low-latency connectivity of billions of devices…the Internet is using much data about many people in many ways, and this raises privacy concerns.”
  • ZTA 22-01’s sponsors falsely suggest the pandemic has shown we need 5G, including to help wipe out the digital divide. What the pandemic has revealed is how many residents and businesses still need affordable access to safe, reliable, secure, high-speed Internet service. Improving wired connections –– that were paid for, but never delivered –– will meet that goal better than expanding wireless technology. We don’t need 5G in our neighborhoods. For equity, we need to make sure that wiring all the way to their premises for high-speed Internet is available for all residences –– including individual apartments –– and that the service is affordable for all, including businesses.
  • Montgomery County passed Bill 44-20 saying that racial equity and social justice issues must be considered in all county ordinances. The RESJ statement for ZTA 22-01 is based on industry funded report.  ZTA 22-01, if passed will evade proper scrutiny. Such scrutiny is essential, because the County’s process for cell-tower oversight is broken –– including its failure to monitor radiation levels inside affordable, multi-family housing and other buildings it lets be used like cell towers, even when the rooftop antennas exceed FCC limits.
  • “Small” cell antennas in front of houses reduce property values, according to the Montgomery County Property Tax Appeals Board.
  • The Property Tax Assessment Appeal Board for Montgomery County lowered a Rockville home’s assessment: “Comparables warrant a reduction in value. Probability of neighboring cell tower also affects value negatively.”
  • The Mayor of Takoma Park and most of Takoma Park’s City Council were part of an amicus brief supporting the landmark court case against the FCC. Residents have asked the Council to wait for the FCC to justify or provide a reasoned explanation based on science for its RF limits.
  • In 2018, Councilmember Riemer, in supporting a previous court challenge led by Montgomery County, noted that he and others had asked the FCC “to make every effort to consider all available research and update their RF emissions guidelines accordingly. They have declined to [do] that…so we are taking them to court to ensure that they fulfill their responsibility to keep our residents safe.” ZTA 22-01 undermines the prospect of waiting for updated RF limits   –– to finally achieve the County’s very own goal.
  • Evidence from hundreds of studies, including the definitive NIH National Toxicology Program Study, show that wireless radiation, from 2G, 3G and 4G –– all below 5G, causes biological and environmental effects. There is “clear evidence” of cancer from cell phone level radiation exposure. 4G/5G densification will add significantly to current levels of radiation exposure. Read more.
  • Symptoms are being experienced by wireless deployments in other areas: firefighters suffered neurological damage, and injuries in Switzerland.
  • 256 leading scientists and experts in Electromagnetic Frequency (EMF) from 44 nations have signed an Appeal to the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) asking for greater health protection on EMF exposure as of August 2022.
  • The insurance industry will not insure cell towers, antennas, poles, wires, and devices due to the health risks and damages from long term exposure.
  • As of September 2022, 302,301 signatories from 203 nations and territories have signed an Appeal to the UN, WHO, Council of Europe, and governments of all nations to halt the deployment of 5G wireless networks, including 5G from space satellites.
  • A Host of Other Social and Ecological Concerns About 5G Yet to be Subject to Public Debate:  The sponsors of ZTA 19-07 and ZTA 22-01 repeat industry’s hype about the positive potential of 5G. What about its negative potential? In addition to health concerns, critical predictions include:
    • A new world of 24/7 corporate and government surveillance and control.
    • Further diversion from face-to-face relationships with people and nature.
    • Severe pruning and reduced planting sites for shade trees, at an ecological moment in time when trees are more important than ever.
    • Increases in unemployment thanks to a huge push for autonomous trucks and cars and services of all kinds.
    • Ever more biased algorithms in AI-enabled tracking devices in all aspects of our daily lives contributing to new racial inequities.
    • And a big increase in energy use to power the multitude of new connected devices.
Posted in Legislation, Montgomery County, Testimony and tagged .