Citizens Group Wants a “Cell-Free Belfry” at Local Church

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Barnstable, Massachusetts approved a building permit for T-Mobile to install six concealed wireless antennas inside a local church last spring. The decision led an opposing group called the Centerville Concerned Citizens to begin pushing for a “cell-free belfry,” the Barnstable Patriot reported.

The Centerville Concerned Citizens believe the RF emitted by antennas is a health risk, so the group hired an attorney and attained a stop-work order for the project shortly after it began. 

The group brought their concerns to the Barnstable Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA.) On January 28, the board opened the case for public comment.

Centerville attorney Paul Revere III said T-Mobile’s permit should have been denied because their request is “spot zoning.” Co-chair of Centerville Concerned Citizens, Janet Davis, said it’s unfair for a small group of people to make a decision that affects the entire community, and her group requested the immediate removal of the antennas.

According to T-Mobile engineer Ryan Monte de Ramos, the steeple antenna would improve coverage in the area by 95 percent. The ZBA requested a peer review by an independent consultant, and a summary of it will be presented to the Barnstable Planning Board before the next meeting on February 11. The ZBA will meet again on February 13 to further discuss the issue.

Tom Nortz told the Patriot, that property values might be negatively affected because “increasing amounts of people do not want to live near cell towers.” Cecilia Doucette, creator of Wireless Education, a nonprofit that raises awareness about what it considers to be the risks of wireless radiation, commented at the meeting. According to the Patriot, Doucette said there have been thousands of studies that prove wireless radiation to be a health risk, citing gene toxicity, DNA damage, and other biological harm. “Wireless is not a sustainable solution for our communities; it is a power-grab from the telecom industry,” Doucette commented.

Attorney for T-Mobile Northeast, Ricardo Sousa, said though the company has seven cell towers already in the area, there is a coverage gap within the vicinity of the church. Sousa assured residents the antennas would be invisible, and that they are “fully compliant with RF submissions and FCC regulations.”

January 31, 2019

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