The yellow marker shows the proposed location of the Cell Tower. The photo also shows the close proximity to surrounding homes.

Friday, March 5, 2010

T-MOBILE'S SLEIGHTS OF HAND

Montgomery County law requires that the community's input be sought after a cell tower application is made. (Click this link to access Montgomery County Executive Regulation 14-96, and click this link to access MCPS Policy ECN, both establishing the requirement to reach out to the community and seek its input.)

In reaching out to the community, T-Mobile has employed a strategy of half truths and gamesmanship since it first presented its proposal to install a cell tower at Whitman High School.

1. In all of its documents distributed to the community (listed below), T-Mobile has consistently described the proposed 120-foot cell tower not as a cell tower but as a "lightpole:"
  • T-Mobile's October 2009 e-mail to the PTSA, which was published on the school's website (but now has been removed), states that T-Mobile is "interested in installing a 120' high lightpole." (Click this link to access a copy of the e-mail.)
  • T-Mobile's architectural drawing of the proposed cell tower's elevation, which was posted on the school's website in advance of the November 17, 2009 presentation (but now has been removed) is entitled "Light Pole Elevation." (Click this link to access the drawing.)
  • T-Mobile's fact sheet that was distributed at the November 17, 2009 presentation states that T-Mobile "proposes replacing an existing baseball field light with a new lightpole."  (Click this link to access the fact sheet.)
  • T-Mobile's January 4, 2010 letter to neighbors of Whitman High School states that "T-Mobile is working with the Montgomery County School system to replace a baseball field light with a new lightpole."  (Click this link to access the letter.)
  • T-Mobile's January 11, 2010 letter to neighbors of Whitman High School contains the identical statement: "T-Mobile is working with the Montgomery County School system to replace a baseball field light with a new lightpole."  (Click this link to access the letter.)
  • T-Mobile's January 19, 2010 letter to neighbors of Whitman High School also contains that statement: "T-Mobile is working with the Montgomery County School system to replace a baseball field light with a new lightpole." (Click this link to access the letter.)
  • T-Mobile's January 2010 fact sheet that was posted on the school website on January 29, 2010 refers to the proposed cell tower four times as a "light pole" or the "Whitman light pole." (Click this link to access the fact sheet.)
  • T-Mobile's February 23, 2010 letter to neighbors of Whitman High School, which was posted on the school website on February 25, 2010, states that "T-Mobile is working with the Montgomery County School system to replace an existing baseball field light with a new lightpole at Whitman High School."  (Click this link to access the letter.)
2. In its set of site plans and architectural drawings, T-Mobile presented a not-to-scale elevation of the proposed cell tower and thereby visually concealed the cell tower's true height. (Click this link to access T-Mobile's plans and drawings.)  The cell tower's true height can be appreciated on a to-scale drawing of the cell tower provided by a neighbor.  This drawing includes school buildings to show the height of the tower relative to the height of the buildings.  (Click this link to access the to scale drawing.)

3. In both balloon tests, T-Mobile's conduct prevented community members from observing those tests:
  • On November 7, 2009, T-Mobile ended its balloon test one hour before the announced time, claiming that the wind was too strong.  The announcement of the balloon test stated that T-Mobile would conduct its balloon test "on Saturday, November 7, between 8 and 11 AM (raindate, Sunday November 8, 8-11 AM)."  Yet, by 10 a.m., T-Mobile had taken down the balloon, preventing community members from observing the balloon test between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.
  • On November 8, 2009, the raindate, T-Mobile did not conduct a balloon test, yet it was a beautiful, windless day.
  • On January 4, 2010, T-Mobile announced that it would conduct a second balloon test on January 10, 2010 from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.  (Click this link to access T-Mobile's January 4, 2010 letter.)
  • On January 10, 2010, T-Mobile conducted its second balloon test, yet in the midst of doing so, T-Mobile suddenly moved the balloon to a different location, unannounced.  The new location was closer to Pyle Road and further away from Clearwood Road.  This prevented community members who had relied on T-Mobile's announcement from observing the balloon test at the proposed cell tower location during one half of the announced time frame.
4. In its balloon tests, T-Mobile misrepresented the true height of the proposed cell tower:
  • Throughout both of T-Mobile's balloon tests, strong wind caused the balloon to veer off significantly from the proposed cell tower site and to fly at a much lower altitude than 120 feet.
  • Moreover, when T-Mobile moved the balloon during its January 10, 2010 balloon test, it had the immediate effect of making the balloon look even lower than at the proposed location, when viewed from Clearwood Road.  Clearly, any photographs subsequently taken from Clearwood Road will show the balloon as flying lower than from its original location.  To view our videos and photographs of the January 10, 2010 balloon test, please click this link.
5. In its presentation on November 17, 2009, T-Mobile attempted to hide information about alternate sites for its antennas:
  • T-Mobile's representatives avoided answering community members' questions about alternate sites for its antennas.  Yet, T-Mobile is legally obligated under MCPS Policy ECN to "show evidence of pursuit of co-location with other vendors and/or existing facilities."  (Click this link to access MCPS Policy ECN.)
  • T-Mobile's representatives stated that T-Mobile already had antennas installed at two existing alternate sites close to Whitman High School--the water towers at Radnor Road and the cell tower in the Kenwood Club at Goldsboro Road.  Yet, a review of Montgomery County's database reveals that T-Mobile does not have antennas installed at those locations.  (Click this link to access the database.)
  • T-Mobile's representatives also stated that it was technically impossible to install any cell phone antennas on the WDCA Tower, located off of River Road at the Capital Crescent Trail bridge, because, as they said, that was an AM radio tower, and any installation of cell phone antennas on that tower would cause interference with the AM radio antenna.  Yet, in fact multiple cell phone antennas are attached to that tower, as anyone driving down River Road can see, and as the Montgomery County database confirms.  (Click this link to access the database.)
6. In its November 17, 2009 presentation, T-Mobile misrepresented the required county review process in a blatant attempt to lead one to believe that the community is powerless and cannot prevent the installation of the proposed cell tower.  For greater detail on the process, please click this link to access our separate post about this issue.
  • T-Mobile claims that it does not need a special exception. Yet, in this case, T-Mobile must apply for a special exception.
  • T-Mobile claims that MCPS (which has a partial monetary interest in the outcome) has the authority to make the final decision on the application. Yet, it is the independent Board of Appeals (an independent quasi-judicial body) that has the authority to grant or deny the application. 
For further details, please click this link to access our separate post about the process.


    2 comments:

    1. I'm not a neighbor, I'm a student, and I'm in awe at the fact that the school is even *considering* this.

      Recently they've tightened the restrictions on cell phone use in school, and now they're thinking of erecting a huge cell phone tower *at* the school? What kind of message is that sending?

      It's depressing to see my peers sitting through class with their phones under their desks, completely ignoring the lesson. Why even bother sending these kids to school if half of them are going to completely disregard the education that great effort and tax payers' money has dutifully provided? But I digress...

      A cell phone tower would be a gawdy health hazard and would have a horrible impact on the ever-shortening attention spans of today's teenagers, as well as on the community as a whole.

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