Incline High School cellphone tower proposal struck down
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – An AT&T proposal to install a 4G cellphone tower near Incline Village schools has been unplugged, thanks mainly to the buzz created recently by residents.
“After review and evaluation of the extensive public input … I intend to recommend that the District not move forward (with the project),” wrote Washoe County School District Superintendent Heath Morrison in a letter last week to Randy Brown, director of regulatory and legislative affairs at AT&T.
School Board President Ken Grein also voiced his opposition, saying simply in a Tuesday phone interview: “I don’t care to support it.”
When phoned this week, AT&T representatives declined to comment other than to confirm the special use application was withdrawn. Whether or not the company plans to install a 4G network at a different location in Incline Village is unknown.
“I really do want to thank the school board and Superintendent Morrison for putting the health and safety of the kids first,” said Incline resident Margaret Martini. “It goes to show the system works when you let your voice be heard.”
Though Martini’s children have long since graduated from Incline’s public schools, she recently spoke out against the project – twice before the school district board and once before the Washoe County Board of Adjustment.
“Why would you even consider putting a growing child at risk?” she asked.
According to previous reports, AT&T won the bid to lease property from the school district at Incline High School in January and had since been conducting due diligence to get the project approved.
But Incline residents were largely absent from the initial public approval process, in part because the project was noticed in the Reno Gazette-Journal, rather than the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza.
When residents here caught wind – a little more than a week before the communications giant was due to appear before the Board of Adjustments in early April to request a special use permit – protests erupted, mainly at the March 26 Incline Village/Crystal Bay Citizen Advisory Board meeting; the board eventually voted to not support the project.
In a short time, more than 100 signatures were collected on an online petition, and 23 people delivered letters of opposition to the BOA. Incline residents expressed concerns with possible adverse health affects of radiowave frequency emissions from the tower, and with the project’s planning process.
Though AT&T delayed its request for a special use permit, community opposition continued to gain traction, with the number of petition signatures ballooning to more than 200, and more residents and representatives showing up at public meetings in Reno to speak against the project.
“I said there should be a higher standard or precaution against unknown risk,” Martini recapped in her statement to the school board and to the BOA. “When in doubt don’t do it.”
Residents John Eppolito, Mark Alexander Jr. and Steve Dolan were also involved in the opposition, Martini said. She said she and those who opposed the plan conducted extensive research into the issue, speaking to scientists and attorneys.
There is an inordinate amount of inconclusive research, she said, and virtually no data to support the assumption the towers are safe. Additionally, she said, there is growing evidence, mostly from European nations, to support the conclusion the towers are not safe. She also said conclusions provided by the World Health Organizations were drawn from “horribly” outdated research.
While evidence suggests cellphone usage may be harmful to brain cells, both the American Cancer Society and World Health Organization continue to say emissions from correctly installed cellphone towers are believed to be safe. WHO does, however, suggest communities adopt a cautious approach when building their communications networks, saying future research may reveal currently, unidentified health hazards.