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City works to find compromise for cellphone tower location

City works to find compromise for cellphone tower location

City officials are working to find a compromise with several parents who are concerned with the construction of a future cellphone tower near Dogwood Elementary School.

Last year, the Germantown Municipal School Board approved a contract with Tower Ventures for a cellphone tower to be built near the school’s playground.

Some residents have been vocal about the need for better cell coverage in the area. However, others worry about the impact of radio frequency waves on developing children.

On Monday, Mayor Mike Palazzolo addressed those in attendance before the “citizens to be heard” portion of the meeting.

“After listening to many of our neighbor’s and resident’s concerns,” Palazzolo said, “especially those that live near to and attend Dogwood School, Tower Ventures has been working with GMSD and the city of Germantown’s Planning and Development departments to change the location of the proximity for where the tower will be placed.”

Palazzolo said GMSD will have to “consider the matter first.” The school board approved the original contract agreement in September 2018.

Last week, Tower Ventures agreed with the city to construct the tower 105 feet farther away from the school, or 253 feet in total.

The tower would then be 360 feet from the playground and 238 feet from the “closest neighbors.”

Palazzolo thanked Aldermen Forrest Owens for “working with all parties involved.”

“(We) will find a compromise and solution that works for public safety, for convenience and commerce, and all the things that the city of Germantown is noted for,” he added.

Last month, residents like Wes Talbert pleaded with the board to reconsider the location of the future tower.

Noting that he has an “extensive education in telecommunications engineering,” the father of two informed the board that he was “qualified to speak” on the issue.

“We’re only beginning to fully understand the adverse effects of radio frequency waves on our health,” he said.

Talbert said that studies on fourth generation broadband cellular network technology (4G) has found “small amounts of cancerous tumors and noncancerous tumors” that may have resulted from radio frequency waves.

“My primary concern is that the 5G is on the horizon,” he said.

He noted that 5G technology carries a frequency that can be up to 18 times the amount gigahertz (GHz) as 4G technology.

“My concern for this city is,” he added, “what stipulations do we have to ensure that the cell tower is not going to be hosting 5G equipment in the near future? It is far more dangerous than the technologies before it. How do we know what they’re going to put on that tower?

“It is holistically not the best idea for us, whatsoever,” he concluded.

A petition pushing for the relocation of the Dogwood tower already has hundreds of signatures.

Relocating the tower will have to be discussed by the Planning Commission.

Brian Branigan, who has two daughters that are being rezoned to Dogwood, recently toured the school and was surprised that the proposed 140-foot tower would be located “around 70 feet from the playground.”

“There are obviously a lot of concerns as to what is going to happen to our children,” he noted.

He also estimated that property values would be impacted by the tower.

“I implore you to consider another location away from the playground and the school,” he told the board.

Joanna Landrum also asked board members to consider relocating the tower.

“We are the only first world country in the entire world that does not acknowledge the dangers of human and animal proximity to cell phone towers,” she said.

Landrum, who owns “multiple” properties in Germantown, also worried that equity would be influenced by the tower.

“I’m not an elitist,” she said, “but this is the sort of thing that you would see in an underprivileged neighborhood, not in the city of Germantown. Please don’t let it happen.”

A second cell tower is also planned at Madonna Learning Center.

The city issued a statement in February regarding the towers.

“Germantown residents and businesses expect ubiquitous, high speed wireless coverage,” it stated. “However, the service within the city is not meeting customer demand.

Approximately 56 percent of Germantown residents are satisfied with their wireless services,” it continued. “Today, wireless is becoming the primary home phone service for many. In addition, approximately 76 percent of all 911 calls in Germantown come from cell phones.”

In January 2015, the BMA approved a process for the development of a long-range strategic plan, Germantown Forward 2030, to “guide the growth and development of the community for the next 15 years.”

“One of the key performance areas of the Germantown Forward 2030 is technology, with an emphasis on how to manage technologies strategically and invest infrastructure dollars wisely to meet the expectations of citizens and the business community.”

One of the objectives of this “key performance area” is to improve wireless coverage.

In 2016, the city created legislation that would allow providers and tower builders to extend tower height from 100 to 140 feet In addition, the Germantown Board of Mayor and Aldermen have approved numerous existing tower improvements over the years. City staff has regular meetings with cell providers to discuss the continuous improvement of coverage within the area.

Most recently, the Tennessee State Legislature passed the “Competitive Wireless Broadband Investment, Deployment and Safety Act of 2018.”

The legislation grants access for cell companies to install small cells within city right-of-ways. These will fill coverage gaps and are “integral to the next generation 5G networks.”

“In an effort to keep up with the changing times, an ordinance update as it relates to small cell sites is currently working its way through the BMA.”

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