Below are examples of the Support Piney Orchard Elementary Paren't received in fighting the placement of a cell tower at their school.
A letter from the Maryland District 21 Legislatures to the Anne Arundel County School Board.
Dear Anne Arundel County School Board members,
We are writing to you today in opposition to cell phone tower placement on the grounds of Piney Orchard Elementary School. We are aware that the project has been placed on “hold” while Milestone Communications researches other options, however we would like to reiterate the many concerns of the residents in Piney Orchard.
There have been several studies throughout the United States as well as internationally which have revealed the many health risks of living in proximity of a cell tower. In all of these studies it has been proven that the increase risk of developing serious health problems are higher when living within 400 meters of a cell tower leaving babies and children particularly sensitive to the effects of the radio frequency radiation.
In addition, the proposed plan does not put the cell towers at the minimum safe distance required by state law (1 foot per every vertical foot), making them extremely dangerous in inclement weather or disaster. A fallen tower will damage both public and private property and potentially bring harm to the staff, parents, and children of Piney Orchard Elementary. Additionally, Milestone Communications also failed to give proper notice to the residents of the surrounding community about this proposal, leaving them left out of discussion and participation.
In closing, we respectfully request the Anne Arundel County School Board to deny this Milestone cell tower project, or at least open the floor to further discussion for the neighboring area. Thank you for your time and consideration of our request.
State Senator (D-21)
Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk
State Delegates (D-21)
From the beginning, the Piney Orchard Community Association (POCA) has been concerned about the cell tower construction. Here is a recent letter from the POCA President, Jeff Andrade, to the former President of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education, Andrew Pruski.
Board of Education of Anne Arundel County
2644 Riva Road
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
It has come to my attention that you have made a number of public and private statements that you are "waiting to hear from POCA" regarding its position on the telecommunications tower lease at Piney Orchard Elementary School (POES) that the Board of Education approved on April 3, 2013. I thought I would respond formally to set the record straight.
First, I notified you on May 21 in response to a text message that you sent to my cell phone, that POCA was talking with Milestone and engineers working on behalf of Verizon Wireless on the lease matter and alternative sites. You requested an update on the status of our discussions via text message on June 17 and on June 22 you left me a voice mail message asking for an update because you had no information from school staff. I did not respond to either of these requests because our discussions are a private business matter between POCA and representatives for Verizon Wireless. Since the Board of Education has a Master Agreement with Milestone Communications and approved a lease for a tower at POES that does not conform to County zoning ordinances, we consider you to be an adverse party in these on-going discussions regarding the tower lease you approved.
Second, as I noted to you on May 21, the record clearly shows that Anne Arundel County Public School staff worked with Milestone Communications on the lease proposal for a cell phone tower at POES for several months prior to bringing the matter before the Board of Education. At no time, were adjacent property owners, including POCA, approached during this process. I expressed my displeasure to you that we were only contacted days before you scheduled this matter for a Board vote. I also expressed displeasure that County school administrators never contacted or informed parents of children at this school of this proposal prior to its adoption -- and still have not done so even to this day. Given the school administration's and Board's lack of transparency in vetting and approving this site lease at POES, I hardly think you are in the position to criticize a lack of transparency on our part as we try to sort through the mess that the Board of Education created in our community by making a hasty decision on a proposal that does not conform with applicable zoning requirements and given the light of day is now apparently widely unpopular with parents at the school.
Finally, the growing opposition from POES parents to the Board of Education's decision to grant a lease to Milestone at POES is your problem not ours. It my personal view as an elected POCA Board Member that given this considerable opposition to your lease decision and the fact that the lease proposal that you approved does not conform to County zoning ordinances, that the Board of Education should rescind its earlier decision on the lease. I urge you to strongly weigh the views of the parents who have children enrolled at POES.
As there are already two existing cell towers located on commercial/industrial-zoned areas within the boundaries of Piney Orchard, rescinding your decision on the POES lease, would not preclude POCA from continuing to work with carriers and County planning staff to find appropriate ways to ensure adequate wireless coverage to customers in our community.
I hope this clarifies where we currently stand on this matter.
President, Piney Orchard Community Association, Inc.
Here is another letter to Christian Winkler, the Vice President for Development of Milestone Communications. Milestone entered into the Master Lease Agreement with the county and they are the ones proposing the construction of the cell tower.
Mr. Christian Winkler
Vice President, Development
12110 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 100
Reston, VA 20190
As a follow-up to our meeting on June 10, 2013 with you and representatives from Network Building & Consulting, LLC (NB&C) representing Verizon Wireless (VZW), I am providing you an update as to the Piney Orchard Community Association’s (POCA) position on the 99-foot telecommunications "tree pole" tower at the Piney Orchard Elementary School (POES) which the Board of Education of Anne Arundel County (School Board) approved on April 3, 2013.
At its monthly meeting on June 17th, the POCA Board of Directors discussed at length the various issues around the proposed tower and the alternative locations at the POES and the one site nearby that you shared with us. During the period for comments from POCA Members at our meeting, we also listened to the concerns of a number of our homeowner Members – all of whom were opposed to a tower at POES. It is unfortunate that the School Board decided to approve this proposal before providing sufficient information or having any public discussions with neighboring homeowners, community and homeowners associations, or parents of children enrolled at POES. Had that been done, the POCA Board would not have to be spending the considerable amount of time that we have on this matter hearing concerns from our Members. As it currently stands we are aware that you can move forward on the project. We appreciate that you took the time, however, to meet with us before doing so.
The proposed site is located within 200 feet of the POES school building and in the middle of a dense residential area. However, the School Board-approved proposal does not conform to the requirements of the Anne Arundel County Code of Ordinances for telecommunications facilities because it does not meet the minimum setback from the adjacent property owned by POCA. This property is currently zoned as R-5 and the abutting property that POCA owns is zoned as Open Space (OS).
Since the proposal approved by the School Board does not conform with the local zoning code, the POCA Board voted not to support any granting of a variance for the proposed tower at POES at the present time. Further, we note the following additional concerns:
The only alternative site away from POES that you have suggested is the Summers Run BGE Substation. After consideration and discussion, we do not believe that this site is feasible because the current County zoning map shows this area to be zoned as R-15, it is not government owned, and there appears to be some opposition to this site by at least one of the nearby homeowners associations. It also appears from looking around the adjacent topography that an undisguised 130+ foot tower at this location would not be sufficiently obscured by trees and would create a negative visual impact on the existing natural landscape of the community. You also indicated that BGE, the owner of the property, has not confirmed that they would agree to a tower on this property.
Prior to our meeting on June 10th, you told me that NB&C and VZW would provide us with its “search ring” to facilitate the discussion on alternative locations. However, at that meeting Board Members were told that the search ring was “proprietary” and would not be disclosed. Before we can have any further discussion on alternative sites, I am once again requesting to see the VZW search ring documentation. We are willing to sign confidentiality/non-disclosure agreements to protect the confidentiality of the information being provided.
Our questions regarding documentation of the significant gap in service that VZW purports exists for its wireless customers in the Piney Orchard community were not adequately addressed at our meeting. NB&C stated that purpose of the tower is to increase "capacity" not coverage, and they specifically discussed increasing data speeds and text messaging, not inadequate voice coverage.
Finally, a majority of the POCA Board members do not believe that VZW and NB&C has done sufficient due diligence on alternative site analysis, particularly on commercially-zoned property within a 2,500 foot radius of the proposed site or in considering deployment of less obtrusive technology suitable for densely residential areas, such as distributed antenna systems on light poles.
In conclusion, as I have said throughout our discussions, we would like to ensure that our residents have access to quality wireless coverage from the wireless carrier of their choice, if that indeed is determined to be a problem. However, given that our community – the largest planned community in Anne Arundel County – was designed at considerable expense with underground utility cables throughout to ensure that the development blended aesthetically with the surrounding natural environment, we are also very protective about the aesthetic impact that any new development proposals may have on our current surroundings.
Thus, if we are to have any additional discussions, Milestone, NB&C and VZW need to focus on locating any new telecommunications towers only on the industrially or commercially zoned property in the Piney Orchard community. We understand that this may require the carriers to make some adjustments to integrate existing towers with a new tower in this area, but it is my understanding that this is not uncommon and is technologically feasible. As we have noted throughout our discussions, there are two areas within a 2,500 foot radius of the proposed site at Piney Orchard Elementary School that are industrially-zoned W3 and W1, and where other telecommunications facilities are currently located at or are nearby. As we have noted, POCA owns a parcel in one of the areas, near an existing telecommunications facility, that we continue to offer for your consideration as a possible alternative site.
We look forward to hearing from you. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Jeffrey R. Andrade
Piney Orchard Community Association, Inc.
cc: POCA Board of Directors
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We have two goals:
1. Convince the AACo Board of Education to revoke the Master Lease Agreement with Milestone Communications (Verizon contractor).
2. Provide resources and support to parents and community members who are opposed to the construction of cell phone towers at their schools and near their homes.