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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Neighbors oppose cell tower at Holmes Middle School

As of Nov. 18, 149 people had signed an online petition created by the Lincolnia Park Civic Association protesting a proposed cell tower on the Holmes Middle School campus.

According to the petition, “The cell tower, as it is currently proposed, will reduce the property value of our neighbors’ homes and as a result will reduce the overall property value of all the homes in the neighborhood. While we cannot yet measure the negative health effects of the transmissions of the cell tower, we do know that any risk will be elevated because of the tower’s close proximity to residential property.”

Fairfax County Public Schools has agreed to let Milestone Communications and T-Mobile submit an application to the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning for a 115-foot “monopole”—within a 30 x 98-foot fenced compound—near the southeast corner of Holmes Middle School property. That location would be just several feet away from houses on Redwing Drive, says Terry Adams, a member of the Lincolnia Park Civic Association and a parent of a Holmes student. A recent “balloon test” (see photo) shows the height of the tower. While Holmes address is in Alexandria, it serves a large population of Annandale students.

Adams opposes the cell tower for several reasons: (1) safety; (2) health concerns known and unknown; (3) aesthetics; (4) reduction in property value; ( 5) the failure to follow the process outlined in county policy; and (6) the lack of evidence to support the need for the monopole.

“I am the closest property owner to the proposed tower (I see ‘monopole’ as a euphemism),” says Jeremy Buckley. “It would be literally feet from my back yard. So, clearly, I have some selfish interest. But even if I didn’t, I think that the research that I’ve done and the things that I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks would lead me to the same conclusions.”

Buckley calls it “an outrageous intrusion on property rights. This tower will reduce the value of my property, and that of my closest neighbors. By ripple effect, it may also affect property values throughout the neighborhood. It is totally out of character with our community and represents a commercialization and industrialization trend that we do not welcome.”

While the tower would generate some money for the school, Adams says, he believes the health concerns should outweigh the school’s need for revenue. “Sure, there’s some economic benefit to the school,” adds Buckley. “But I know that the profits for Milestone are even greater. It’s a completely inappropriate use of public land for commercial purposes. The process is also terrible. By the time the local community finds out about these things, they are already on the fast track to approval.”

The Lincolnia Park Civic Association voted unanimously to oppose the tower in November. The Fairfax County Council of PTAs passed a resolution in 2005 calling for a moratorium on cell towers on school grounds.
A community meeting will be held Saturday, Nov. 20, at 7 p.m. at Holmes Middle School, where the film “Full Signal” will be screened. The award-winning documentary outlines the potential health effects of cell towers, cell phones, and antennas. Another meeting is scheduled for Dec. 1, 7:30 p.m., at the school, to which representatives of Milestone and T-Mobile have been invited.

Adams says Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross and school board member Sandy Evans have spoken with some of the opponents to the tower. “What we have not heard is a loud and public statement saying: (1) We support this community and their concerns about the proposed monopole location; and (2) we want the builder to stop the proposed monopole plan and select a different site,” he said.

“Something stinks here,” Buckley says. “Milestone has a sweet deal with the school board, and they are milking it for everything they’ve got. They are in the business of building towers, and I honestly believe that they want to put one at every Fairfax County public school, including the elementary schools. 

“There is little doubt that Fairfax County, T-Mobile, and Milestone are no strangers to meeting previous opposition to these tower facilities in other locales,” adds Thomas Barry, who has lived on Redwing Drive for 21 years. Barry believes “there is the ‘appearance’ that the Holmes venture has been advanced in a somewhat stealth-like manner, absent community interface until very late in the game, to perhaps elude anything that may potentially derail the proposed plan.”

“Nobody really knows if these towers are safe over the long term,” Buckley says. “It will be 300 feet from my children’s bedrooms (not to mention the school). In Europe and most of the rest of the world, 1,500 feet seems to be about the consensus for a ‘safe’ distance.” He calls the proliferation of wireless telecommunications in recent years “the largest biological experiment in history.”

And while Milestone’s proposal promises to provide phone service in an area with poor coverage, Adams says, “We have seen no evidence of bad service in the area. Even if that were the case, we would continue to oppose the proposed plan and question the wisdom to build at Holmes Middle School.”

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  1. During my recent four day visit to the DC area, during which I stayed with old friends on Redwing Drive, my T-Mobile signal was very strong everywhere but on the Metro ... There is no need for this tower. T-Mobile needs to get its act together on the DC Metro.

  2. Web site (linked above, but not terribly obvious) ...

  3. There is no evidence that cell towers reduce property values. The only way that can be determined is to analyze relative sell prices but not many people sell their homes to get away from cell towers. There is no evidence that the low-energy non-ionizing rf from cell tower base stations has adverse effects on animal tissue. There may be some slight evidence that the radiation from an actual cell phone handset causes brain tumors, but that is very different from the low-energy, non-ionizing rf from the cell tower base stations.

  4. But the fear of property value reduction is a convenient excuse to toss out when a neighbor does something you don't like.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. Why should YOU do something your neighbor does not like? That is especially so for YOU a public entity. As it relates to rf emission from the base or from the tower to suggest there is no outside reason and irresponsible. Every element that passes through a human cell has an effect on the cell. How much depends on the cell and the item or items passing through. Nature things passing through our cells have an effect, like too much or too little water, too much or too little sun. The question that has not been adequately answered is how much before we see the very negative effects of the rf passing through. When the test where done that indicates there was no effect, I can only guess they used a single source over a limited period of time. What you have now is hundreds of sources operating and emitting 24 hours a day with at least one quarter of the sources pointing to you no matter where you are. (The companies call it coverage)There are no tests that were done in the environment in which we currently reside. The companies have alternatives to placing the tower at Holmes. Why increase the risk for the children when there are alternatives? Would you put your child in the car with a drunk driver? You probably would not, because, that would increase the risk of harm to your child. You get the point.

  7. Sorry gang, I am usually very skeptical, but I looked this issue up online on the WHO, National Cancer Institute and EPA web sites. RF from broadcast towers has been around for many decades at stronger levels than cell towers, and there was no impact on health. The scientific studies conclude that there is no hazard. So this is a NIMBY argument only impacting a few... and this is just one of the risks of buying a home next to public land. Sorry.

  8. Re: the above comment as to having a cell tower constructed in one's back yard b/c you live next to a public school as "one of the risks of buying a home next to public land." ...From a simple zoning perspective, constructing cell towers on public school properties, in this case within a residential neighborhood, does not seem right. A person would never dream that they might be fighting a cell tower b/c they live next to a school b/c THAT IS NOT WHAT SCHOOLS DO. If a school were to put in an athletic field with tall light poles, then yes, suck it up, b/c that is what schools do. But a cell tower? That is not a reasonable expectation of something that might be constructed.

    The proposed footprint of this cell tower is approximately 3000' square feet. It is my understanding that it would constructed on a part of the property where the Annandale Boys and Girls Club plays. If needed, awareness could be raised with that group of folks.

    Sign your posts people. Too many Anonymous-es.

  9. If you really want to learn about the adverse impacts of cell towers, from reducing property values to health impacts, go to and go to their "Links" and "Questions and Anwers" sections.

  10. No cell tower! Federal needs to have a standard that cell tower should be at lease 1500 feet away from residential area.