Cell tower protests challenge commissioners
By Judith Pannebaker
Opponents of a proposed cell phone tower set for construction in a residential neighborhood in Medina packed the Thursday, Sept. 10, meeting of Bandera County Commissioners Court.
Constituents of Precinct 3 Commissioner Richard Keese sat in silent protest as attorney Carole Boyd led the charge against the tower’s erection, which she claimed would pose a health and safety hazard and cause property values to plummet, among other objections.
Ticking off neighborhoods within two miles of the proposed tower, she said, “A lot of property owners will be affected by this and nobody knew it was coming. These things are erected overnight. Cell towers can go up everywhere unless someone opposes them.”
Apparently the only notification of the proposed edifice was small legal notices published in local newspapers. “There should have been meaningful public notification of the property owners surrounding this tower,” Boyd asserted.
Once the proposed cell tower became common knowledge, however, concerned Medina residents sent over 24 letters to Texas Senators and the Federal Communications Commission with letters.
According to Boyd, cell towers emit low frequency electromagnetic radiation, which she described as “still dangerous” since the emissions are similar to microwave radiation. Studies have ostensibly linked this type of radiation to brain and other tumors, cancers of the eye and sterilization, along with other problematic medical conditions.
“Cell tower waves travel over 2.5 miles,” she said. “Scientists have determined they pose huge dangers. These types of towers should not be allowed in residential neighborhoods or on public buildings.”
While ceding that cell phone companies need towers for coverage, Boyd noted, “There has been little regard for the safety of the public regarding the placement of cell phone towers. Cell phone companies are reluctant to share towers. Some want exclusive towers.”
Boyd claimed that the controversial Medina tower is being built by Towers of Texas, a broker between a landowner and a cell phone company. “Towers of Texas will not divulge which cell phone company will lease the tower once construction is complete,” she said. Furthermore, Boyd claimed the landowner had approached Towers of Texas about leasing land to a cell phone company for a tower “in the middle of a residential area” prior to purchasing the land.
Boyd also took exception to what she believed were incorrect documents filed with state authorities regarding not only a required environmental report, but also the fact that the client would not require “high intensity” lights.
“This is blatantly false. Cell towers over 200 feet tall must be equipped with strobe lighting not only at the top, but along the structure. This tower will be 320-feet high,” Boyd said. “If they lied about one criteria, how many others did they lie about?”
To a query from Judge Richard Evans, she indicated she had received no response about the protests from the Public Utilities Commission. “However, the Federal Aviation Administration has expressed concern that the tower might disrupt flight training patterns in this area,” Boyd said.
Deeming placement of cell towers “a huge issue that won’t go away,” she felt county officials’ claims of “their hands being tied and having no control” were specious. Under Local Government Code, Title 12, “Planning and Development,” and Chapter 391, “Local governments have specific authority,” she said.
According to Boyd, the relevant point of the document gives Regional Planning Commissions the authority to “encourage and permit local government units to join and cooperate to improve the health, safety and general welfare of their residents and plan for the future development of communities, area and regions so that ‘healthful surroundings for family life in residential areas are provided’.”
Bandera County already belongs to a regional planning commission, the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG).
“There needs to be serious thought as to where towers need to be. They should be located where no harm can come to residents, businesses and animals,” Boyd said. “The authority of county elected officials goes beyond cell towers and should be used to improve the quality of life and health and protect this beautiful county.”
Commissioners noted that even in the State of Texas “property rights are a balancing act.”
Medina resident Alexandra Zimmer reiterated, “Commissioners have power they didn’t know they had.” She urged them to use their authority for the good of all the people before the situation in the county becomes untenable. “We are stewards of the land.
Investigate and implement for the good of all of us,” Zimmer urged commissioners.