Tower at school: Give it an F

Rappahannock News - - EDITORIAL & OPINION -

As a par­ent with young chil­dren about to en­ter Rap­pa­han­nock schools, I’m deeply concerned that our plan­ning com­mis­sion has ap­proved the pro­posed 199-foot cell tower less than 100 feet from the high school. It is also very trou­bling that the school board would agree to lease its land to AT&T to build a tower that is both dan­ger­ous and ugly. The county’s com­pre­hen­sive plan re­quires our su­per­vi­sors to take both aes­thet­ics and pub­lic safety into ac­count when de­cid­ing whether or not to ap­prove this ap­pli­ca­tion. We need to clearly think through the po­ten­tial im­pact of the pro­posed tower.

Erect­ing this tower un­nec­es­sar­ily places stu­dents, fac­ulty, staff and vis­i­tors in peril, not to men­tion school fa­cil­i­ties. Cell tow­ers can and do col­lapse; de­bris can and does fall from cell tow­ers. (Look on YouTube for some in­ter­est­ing videos of cell tow­ers col­laps­ing if you think it’s not pos­si­ble.) Our county does have cases of ex­treme weather, in­clud­ing hur­ri­canes, tor­na­does, ice storms, hail and se­vere thun­der­storms, and they come from all di­rec­tions.

In ad­di­tion, if placed so close to the school, the tower would at­tract van­dals and dare­dev­ils. Even though, as Ben Jones pointed out last week in this paper, su­per­vi­sors are not al­lowed to con­sider the proven harm­ful ef­fects of elec­tro­mag­netic waves on our stu­dents and staff, they can and should con­sider the po­ten­tial phys­i­cal dan­ger to our chil­dren and their care­tak­ers.

This tower also would be just plain ugly. The vis­ual im­pact of such a place­ment di­rectly op­poses our man­date to mit­i­gate vis­ual im­pact to res­i­dents. I can only imag­ine what it would be like to be a teenager bused ev­ery day into its shadow. It doesn’t seem like our county places a value on the scenic char­ac­ter of our coun­try­side or the aes­thetic sen­si­tiv­i­ties of its youth.

The county’s an­nual in­come from the tower isn’t worth the li­a­bil­ity. If this tower goes up as planned, par­ents like us will se­ri­ously con­sider with­draw­ing their chil­dren from the pub­lic schools at the high school level. This would de­crease the school’s en­roll­ment and there­fore state fund­ing. You can bet that many par­ents’ de­ci­sions will be in­formed by cur­rent re­search on the health ef­fects of the type of elec­tro­mag­netic waves emit­ted from the tower. I be­lieve that the tower would end up be­ing a fi­nan­cial li­a­bil­ity rather than a ben­e­fit.

I’m sure we can have ex­cel­lent cell phone cov­er­age in our county with­out it. Stop­ping the rush to ap­proval can only yield a bet­ter pro­posal in the fu­ture. Has AT&T looked at any sites on the north side of U.S. 211, nes­tled in the moun­tain­side, or other area prop­er­ties that are a safe dis­tance away from the school?

I urge our su­per­vi­sors to ex­er­cise their civic duty by vot­ing against the pro­posed cell tower at the high school. The school board can and should re­visit and re­ject its de­ci­sion to use school prop­erty as the site of a cell tower. Rachel Bynum

Sper­ryville pub­lic is not given the chance to con­sider per­ti­nent in­for­ma­tion.

Sec­ond, in re­sponse to our in­quiry whether eight-foot plat­forms at the top of the cell tow­ers could be used in­stead of the pro­posed 12-foot plat­forms, AT&T replied that eight-foot tow­ers might be a pos­si­ble con­ces­sion. These smaller plat­forms would re­duce the mass at the top of the cell tow­ers, thereby some­what re­duc­ing the vis­ual im­pact.

How­ever, with the ex­cep­tion of Gary Light, the com­mis­sion­ers were not will­ing to in­ves­ti­gate the fea­si­bil­ity of eight­foot plat­forms un­der the premise that they did not want to “mi­cro­man­age” AT&T. Dur­ing the meet­ing, sev­eral com­mis­sion­ers com­mis­er­ated with Wood­ward Road res­i­dents’ com­plaints that the cell tower would be an ob­tru­sive eye­sore in an oth­er­wise pris­tine set­ting. Those sen­ti­ments now feel rather in­sin­cere given the plan­ning com­mis­sion dis­re­gard­ing a pos­si­ble way to lessen the cell tower’s sil­hou­ette against our ru­ral land­scape.

We thank com­mis­sioner Light for ad­vo­cat­ing dur­ing the meet­ing that the pub­lic be given time to re­view all in­for­ma­tion and that eight-foot plat­forms be re­searched. We re­main quite dis­mayed that he stood alone on both of these is­sues. Ashley and Jamie Matthews

Sper­ryville have viewed such in­tru­sions into the “pic­ture” of Rap­pa­han­nock County as not com­pat­i­ble. We have re­jected such ap­pli­ca­tions. What Rap­pa­han­nock is and looks like is what brings peo­ple to our county.

With Sprint, al­though we do not have uni­ver­sal cov­er­age for cell ser­vice through­out the county, we do have com­pli­ance with the ob­jec­tive of main­tain­ing the “pic­ture.” The re­jec­tion of Sprint’s orig­i­nal ap­pli­ca­tion didn’t keep us from hav­ing ser­vice. Sprint worked with us to blend in. High-speed In­ter­net ser­vice to some in the county fol­lowed.

With AT&T, we still will not have uni­ver­sal cov­er­age for cell ser­vice through­out the county. A good por­tion of those who will get cov­er­age from AT&T al­ready get it from Sprint. With AT&T, we will still not have wide­spread ac­cess to high-speed In­ter­net.

But with AT&T we will change the “pic­ture.” AT&T isn’t in­ter­ested in blend­ing in.

If we re­ject the ad­di­tional ap­pli­ca­tions as they come in, we can pro­tect the fea­tures of our sky­line. It is the nat­u­ral, un­spoiled na­ture of that sky­line as seen from most any point in Rap­pa­han­nock County that is a ma­jor at­trac­tion. Vis­i­tors come to ex­pe­ri­ence and en­joy the county and spend their money. Ev­ery day, you can see peo­ple get out of their ve­hi­cles to take pic­tures of our “clean” sky­line.

Two-hun­dred-foot naked tow­ers, whether built by AT&T or some­one else, mar one of the very things that draw peo­ple to us.

We are los­ing the over­all sense that ev­ery­one has when they come here. It is that sense that they have en­tered a spe­cial, more nat­u­ral, less de­spoiled piece of earth than that which sur­rounds us in the neigh­bor­ing coun­ties. Tim and Mary Lou Pagano


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