GREENBELT – In a unanimous decision, the mayor and city council have instructed city staff to send a letter to the Prince George’s County administration formally opposing the construction of cell phone towers on school properties in the city and requesting a more transparent process. The council’s decision came at its Nov. 24 meeting following […]
GREENBELT – In a unanimous decision, the mayor and city council have instructed city staff to send a letter to the Prince George’s County administration formally opposing the construction of cell phone towers on school properties in the city and requesting a more transparent process.
The council’s decision came at its Nov. 24 meeting following a discussion based on a petition received by city resident Thea Scarato, in October. Scarato, a mother whose children attend Prince George’s County Public Schools, is a part of a coalition opposing cell phone towers near school properties.
Mayor Pro-Tem Judith F. Davis said she believes an agreement between the school system and developers to construct cell towers is all about achieving financial gain.
“[It’s] basically a way of raising money and that’s not the way to raise money,” Davis said.
The Sentinel previously reported that in 2010, the Prince George’s County Board of Education voted in favor of cell phone towers on school properties. Just one year later in 2011, PGCPS entered into an agreement with Milestone Communications allowing cell phone towers to be placed on more than 70 public school properties.
At least two Greenbelt schools, including Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Turning Point Academy and Greenbelt Middle School could potentially become sites for new cell phone towers.
“This is something that we in Greenbelt have always opposed,” said Councilmember Edward Putens. “…We do not like cell towers in Greenbelt, particularly on school sites. We’ve had a lot of opportunities to put [towers] on public lands and they’ve never actually went before council because they were basically killed before they got in the door of the city manager.”
Putens made the motion to oppose cell phone towers on school grounds, and the council passed it unanimously.
Councilmember Rodney Roberts said he is against cell phone towers and supported the motion, particularly against putting a tower near Eleanor Roosevelt.
“Not only for exposure to the children, but I personally think that it is an eye sore,” said Roberts.
In her petition Scarato asked the council to issue a proclamation regarding what she deems are potential dangers of cell phones and other wireless devices, such as potential health risks from overexposure to radiation. Scarato also said there is a need for more transparency during the development process. She also asked the council to oppose the placement of cell towers on PGCPS property.
“Greenbelt is known for strong civic involvement,” Scarato said. “I respect the council for calling attention to the need for greater transparency and community decision making power when it comes to cell tower placement process.”
The council plans to meet with newly-elected Board of Education Member Lupi Grady to discuss the future of cell towers in Greenbelt. Putens said he wants to know specifically of any leases or plans to put cell towers by a Greenbelt school or a school that has students from Greenbelt in it.
City staff noted they found no conclusive evidence that cell phone towers are dangerous, however, they cited other reasons such a lower property value and proximity to residential areas as factors for the council to consider.
“I don’t mind writing a letter as long as there are verifiable reasons as to why we oppose it,” said Davis.
“We have been fighting this for a while,” Putens said. “We need to know what is going on.”
Sentinel reporter Melanie Balakit contributed to this report.