Please Attend: 1st Cell Tower Application Hearing, Mon Sept 30, 7:30!!

Community Meeting Monday, Sept. 30, on First Application for Small Cell Tower in City Right-of-Way:

For Utility Pole at 902 Merrimac Drive (south of intersection of  Carroll Avenue and University Boulevard)

Come Learn & Share Your Concerns with City Staff and Crown Castle Representative.

This is the first of 11 small cell towers Crown Castle plans for Takoma Park in the next two years! (See list below.)

Time:   Monday, Sept. 30th, at 7:30 p.m.

Place:   Takoma Park Community Center, 7500 Maple Avenue

The City has received the first application for a small cell tower that falls under Takoma Park’s new Ordinance for such towers in City rights-of-way.  Crown Castle, a big supplier of infrastructure for telecom carriers, wants to place an antenna for T-Mobile on a Pepco pole in Ward 6, at 902 Merrimac, between Carroll and Lockney, a block south of the intersection of Carroll and University. The pole is ~ 85 feet from residents’ homes! Our Ordinance requires the Director of Public Works to hold a Community Meeting “to provide the public with information about the proposed installation, answer questions, receive information, and respond to concerns.”

Afterwards, the Director decides whether to approve an application — and federal guidelines pressure the City to decide in a hurry. Since this is the first  tower application ever under our Ordinance, our input Monday will help City officials develop the most effective review process for the future.  Let’s take advantage of this opportunity and respond with robust participation!

Please come also to support our first Takoma Park residents to face one of these small cell towers so near their homes. The pole that would hold the cell antenna is ~ 85′ from the closest residents’ homes!

You can read Crown Castle’s application, its report on how it plans to comply with federal radiation guidelines, etc., by scrolling to the bottom of this page on the City’s website:  Come and share your questions and concerns about potential impacts on health, safety, and equity posed by the location of this proposed small cell tower so near homes in Ward 6.

And See Crown Castle’s Two-Year Plan for Placing 10 Other Small Cell Towers in Our City’s Rights-of-Way:

The plan is on pages 7-9 in Crown Castle’s main Application Form, which is one of the files posted at the bottom of the link above. The addresses in Takoma Park (and two just outside the City but on Crown Castle’s list) are:

7059 Eastern Ave.

8349 Flower Ave.

800 Kennebec Ave.

8200 Brighton Ave.

8209 Flower Ave.

700 Devonshire Ave.

508 Lincoln Ave.

6902 New Hampshire Ave.

6347 New Hampshire Ave.

Anacostia Tributary Trail System (near New Hampshire Avenue)

[And 8411 Piney Branch Road, in nearby Silver Spring]

[And 628 Sheridan Street, NE, just off Eastern, in nearby DC]

(Here’s recent news from the Environmental Health Trust related to radio frequency emissions from small cell towers: )

Thank you — we hope to see you Monday night. And please share this news with others.

— Community Vision for Takoma

Community Vision for Takoma
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Community Vision for Takoma is a volunteer citizens group dedicated to an inclusive, just, and compassionate community. We invite you to join us in protecting and building upon our community’s progressive legacy. We believe that Takoma Park can be a model for other communities as we protect our natural environment, support right-sized development, and protect affordable housing, living-wage jobs, diversity, access to the arts, and thriving small, independent businesses.  We welcome your ideas and participation. Please contact us at

Cell Wireless Facility Application Spotlight: Utility Poles on Merrimac Drive Improperly Expanded BEFORE Tower Committee Decision on Proposed Wireless Facility – Takoma Park Should Deny Permit for Attachment

Prepared by Rick Meyer (

March 8, 2019

Takoma Park should reject application for permit to install wireless facility that may be requested by PEPCO on behalf of Crown Castle for attachment to utility pole located in front of 902 Merrimac Drive.

The original permit to replace and “make ready” existing pole(s) on Merrimac Drive was issued improperly in 2017 for third party attachment of a wireless facility.

The application for the original permit should NOT have been submitted by PEPCO until AFTER proper recommendation was issued by Tower Committee for application 201802-05 submitted in December 2017 and, subsequently, tabled by Crown Castle in February 2018. Nor should Takama Park have issued the permit.

Nonetheless, even though the Crown Castle had withdrawn their application PEPCO went forward with “make ready” and made the pole(s) substantially taller.

Crown Castle’s second application #2018120624 as submitted in late 2018 was ONLY recommended because pole #80422-090050, which was unlawfully made taller, was subsequently, and incorrectly, classified as “existing” by the Tower Committee.


  1. PEPCO and Takoma Park did NOT follow COMCOR 2.58E.01.08.
    • The section is excerpted below.
    • The section specifies ALL permits must reference TFCG application number and makes no carve out for permits issued by municipalities such as Takoma Park.
    • Since Takoma Park is subject to County zoning rules this section must also be followed, but apparently was NOT.
    • Further, it would appear that neither Takoma Park, nor PEPCO immediately forwarded permit to the Tower Committee, which in theory,should have triggered alarm bells that permits were being issued ahead of Tower Committee recommendations.
  2. The taller replacement pole requested in first application 201802-05 would NOT have been recommended for “limited use” by the Tower Committee under zoning ordinances in effect at time permit was issued:
    • The first Tower Committee application for this facility was submitted in December 2017, tabled in February 2018 and, then, superseded by a new application in December 2018.
    • The second application asserted that an improperly modified pole should be considered as existing.
    • Comments were filed to the Tower Committee regarding the first application noting that modifications to pole would exceed allowable increases and would NOT quality for” limited use” under the zoning ordinance in effect AT THAT TIME.
    • Thus, the first application to the Tower Committee would have referred to Office of Zoning and Hearings for a conditional use hearing.
    • Remember, ZTA 18-02 did not become effective until June 2018.
      1. This ZTA authorized replacement poles in the C/R zone that met the standards of the ordinance as a Limited Use.
      2. Among the standards were more relaxed antenna size standards.
      3. And it established a height limit for the pole, including the attached antenna facility, as the height of the pre-existing utility pole plus 10 feet,
      4. except when on wide roads (greater than 65 feet) where the height limit was allowed to be a total of 15 feet
    • So, the first permit to increase pole height was improperly issued because the replacement pole had NOT been recommended by Tower Committee and would not have been eligible for limited use.
    • Thus, the improperly modified pole cannot be accurately or properly be considered as “existing” as it was non-conforming to zoning requirement in effect at time of permit issuance.
  3. PEPCO’s “make ready” of the pole occurred after expiration of the permit issued by Takoma Park.
    • It was announced at the March 6, 2019 Tower Committee meeting that the permit which was improperly issued had expired in March 2018.
    • However, the pole markings show manufacture date of “5 18″ – or May 2018. (see photo below.)
    • The photos submitted with the second Tower Committee application from Crown Castle were dated September 2018.
    • So, the replacement pole must have been installed sometime between May and September 2018.
    • PEPCO should have notified Takoma Park for street and sidewalk closures on the specific date(s) when pole was installed to determine the precise installation date.
    • Regardless, we believe replacement pole was installed without a lawful Takoma Park permit in force.
  4. Section 3.6.7 of the zoning ordinance requires non-electrical distribution lines in this zone to be installed underground.
    • The diagrams in the application clearly show that the pole is to dependent on aerial fiber optic cable for backhaul.
    • However, new aerial cable that is NOT for electric distribution MUST be underground.
    • The proposed facility is therefore even further in non- conformance.
  5. There were actually two poles that were significantly enlarged in relation to this facility but work on the second pole directly across the street should NOT have commenced until the Tower Committee properly recommended the site. (see photos below.)
    • The stub pole directly across the street from #80422-090050 was also modified to be made substantially taller, but not fully disclosed by PEPCO as necessary in relation to the entire wireless facility project.
    • This second pole will be the connect point for proposed new aerial fiber.
    • The combination of these two modified poles substantially and adversely modifies the street scape.
    • But the scale of these combined modification(s) were never properly addressed in application(s) for permits or to the Tower Committee.

02.58E.01.08 Building Permit.

  1. A building permit is required for the construction of a telecommunications transmission facility in the County.
  2. All permit applications must reference the Wireless Communications Site application number, and must include the recommendation of the Telecommunications Transmission Facility Coordinating Group and the approval of the land owning agency, if applicable.
  3. Building permit approvals may be expedited if copies of standard construction drawings are on file with the permitting agency.
  4. Upon issuance and release of the building permit, a copy of the permit will be sent to the Tower Coordinator for filing with the application and supporting documentation. A copy of the site plan and construction drawings will be furnished to the Tower Coordinator upon request for use in updating the database.

Merrimac Drive August 2017 Source: Google Maps

Merrimac Drive, January 2019 Source: Rick Meyer

Marking on pole #80422-090050 showing May 2018 manufacture date. Source: Rick Meyer