Verizon Tower Project Nixed Over RF, Autism Concerns

The Pinetop-Lakeside Board of Adjustment rejected an application for a variance request by Verizon Wireless to build a 94-foot tower, reported the White Mountain Independent.

According to Town Community Development Director Cody Blake, Verizon’s interest in building a new tower was a “complaint-driven” response from residents’ requests.

However, it seems that most residents aren’t interested in a tower being constructed in their neighborhood. Many responded with concerns over possible negative health effects and property values dropping five to twenty percent. Even though most residents agreed that service is poor in the area, it seems the pros of connectivity do not outweigh the cons of potential health risks and decreased property values.  

One parent, Don McMasters, who serves as the president of the White Mountains Autism Foundation, spoke up regarding potential health risks from the tower and disseminated an 18-page packet of information regarding said risks. McMasters’ wife, Barbara, commented, “We have a son with autism who is 29 and we’ve been told not to live anywhere near high EMF [Electromagnetic fields].”

The property owners of the planned tower site, Alison Stewart and John Samora, spoke in favor of the tower, saying they are committed to making the facility as aesthetically pleasing to the neighborhood as possible by planting trees and shrubs to blend it into the scenery. Samora also commented on what he feels was hypocrisy displayed during the meeting, “I am willing to bet that most, if not all of those speakers at the [town] council meeting…had cell phones in their pockets, which also emit waves. Further, there was a lot of talk about protecting our children from these waves, and yet, many of these same people send their children to the Blue Ridge School district where there are not one, but two cell towers on their campuses.”

Additionally, Councilman James Snitzer defended the tower project stating, “You know EM radiation is everywhere. I mean, it’s just floating all around us these days. We used to be told that watching TV would give us radiation, then it was microwave ovens and now it’s cell phones and they’re everywhere, so they wouldn’t be around in my opinion if that was true. I just don’t believe there’s a significant risk from cell phones.”

Councilor Kathy Dahnk said she would like to see Verizon research a location outside of a residential area for a tower before the vote of 6-1 passed to deny Verizon the variance.

November 8, 2017

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