Virtual Votes Approve Memphis Cell Tower Site Plan

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UPDATE Memphis-based Tower Ventures received final site plan approval yesterday via virtual vote after nearly two years of debate by residents and city officials concerned about the location and assumed health effects of a proposed 140’ cell tower.

Germantown Municipal School District (GMSD) entered into a contract with Tower Ventures in September 2018, sparking heated debates between residents both for and against the tower. According to The Daily Memphian, Alderwoman Mary Anne Gibson met with several residents during the review process to gain a broader perspective on both sides of the issue. Many parents raised concerns over health, citing the so-called “cancer cluster” at an elementary school in Ripon, CA, while those in favor of the tower cited spotty cell service and overall public safety. Inside Towers covered several instances where the Ripon case has been incorrectly cited using the sample of school children who had been exposed to carcinogens in their ground water.

The timing of the scheduled vote itself was not without contention. With COVID-19 stay-at-home orders in place, Alderman Dean Massey asked to delay the decision until July or when isolation orders are lifted, allowing residents to attend in-person.

“I think we owe it [to residents] to have this discussion and this debate in a public meeting,” said Massey. “The vote should be conducted when aldermen can look [citizens] in the eye.”

Appeasing Massey’s concerns, a vote by the Germantown Board of Mayor and Aldermen was held to decide on postponing the matter, but that vote was deadlocked 2-2, thereby moving the site plan vote forward.

Taking into consideration the challenges posed by the virtual vote, residents were asked to submit emails as a form of public comment. The Daily Memphian reported about 80 emails representing both sides of the issue were received and will be included in the meeting record.

“I think they made the best decision given all the facts for the community as a whole,” said John Ueleke, president of the Enclave Estates homeowner’s association.

“This has been going on for over a year now,” Alderman Rocky Janda said, noting he’s the chair for Germantown’s cellular service task force. “It’s always been my view this is a public safety issue…I think this is extremely important that we have cell service in this area and all areas of the city.”

The final virtual vote was approved 3-1 with Massey casting the lone dissenting ballot.

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