Concerned residents want more study on new cell tower

  An application for a special exception to the Switzerland County Board of Zoning Appeals that could result in a new cell tower being constructed here in the county has some residents — and neighbors to the proposed site — concerned about issues that might arise should the tower be built.

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An application for a special exception to the Switzerland County Board of Zoning Appeals that could result in a new cell tower being constructed here in the county has some residents — and neighbors to the proposed site — concerned about issues that might arise should the tower be built.

The special exception, which was filed on behalf of a company that would construct an AT&T cell phone tower, concerns property located at 8973 State Road 56 in Jefferson Township. The site is near the community of Jacksonville. The petitioners requesting the public hearing for the Board of Zoning Appeals to consider their request published the notice in the Vevay newspaper on August 30th and September 6th, and the meeting was planned for Wednesday, September 19th — but the petitioners asked that the matter be tabled until the October meeting because there was not a full complement of members of the Board of Zoning Appeals available for the September 19th meeting.

For residents living in that area, some are concerned that there have not been enough studies done as to the long term health issues that might arise from living in a close proximity to such a tower. They also wonder how the location of the tower might impact property values in that area; and also have a concern that the tower — which will be 269-feet tall, including a lightning rod at the top — will impact the natural beauty of the county. They note that because the tower would be located just off of State Road 56, many of the visitors to the county who use that road will see it.

“We understand that cell phones aren’t going anywhere, and towers like this are necessary; but we feel like there hasn’t been enough research done on the health effects,” resident Diana Barry said. “There are studies that show the possibility of a connection between living near these towers and health problems later in life. We feel like this could have a health impact on children here. There are 20 children who live on Lewis Drive (near the proposed site). We just want people to slow down and study the issue.”

Those wanting the Board of Zoning Appeals to slow down the process also wonder if there’s an alternate location here in the county where the tower could be constructed, but wouldn’t be as close to families as this location — allowing for better cell phone service while reducing the risk of health problems; maintaining property values for those who own homes in that area; and preserving the beauty of Switzerland County.

“We just want people to be informed of all of the information so that the best decision for everyone can be made,” Barry said. “People need to know that this tower is being proposed and where it’s going to be located; and what some of the potential issues are that could come up. We hope that people will research this issue and gather information so they can be informed.”

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A group of the concerned citizens attended Monday night’s meeting of the Switzerland County Commissioners, hoping to gather more information about the proposed tower and its location.

At the meeting, some of the comments included (as reported by Rosemary Bovard):

• Not only the people who live in the neighborhood will be impacted, but everyone who ever drives by since this is a busy state highway.

• Many hours of research yielded no positive proof that cell towers are safe or that they pose no health dangers to anyone, especially to children. The towers just haven’t been around long enough to really know if they’re safe or not; not enough time has elapsed for good studies.

Research that was due to come out in February of this year for the first time establishes a scientific link between RF (radiofrequency) waves and cancer in lab rats. This first-of-its-kind government study has prompted the Chief Medical Director of the American Cancer Society to say that it “marks a paradigm shift in our understanding of radiation and cancer risk.”

• Other concerns we have are the effect on property values and the “visual contamination of our rural landscape”.

The commissioners advised the residents that they have no jurisdiction regarding the issue, but to continue talking to the Board of Zoning Appeals as it is up to that board to allow this to go through or stop it.

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The focus of the issue now shifts to Wednesday, October 17th, when the Board of Zoning Appeals is expected to hear and consider the application for the Special Exception that — if approved — would allow for the tower to be built on the proposed site. That meeting will be held in the basement of the Switzerland County Courthouse, and will begin at 6 p.m. Those wishing to attend should enter the back doors of the courthouse off of Pike Street, and then proceed downstairs to the meeting. The front doors of the courthouse will be locked.

The group is currently circulating a petition to deny the decision for the proposed site. The petition is being hand carried by supporters; and is also located at the Kooky Kokonut on Main Street in Vevay. Those wanting more information are also invited to contact Barry at (812) 427-9490.

“We’re just trying to get everyone who can to come to the meeting,” Barry said. “There are a couple of us who are going to speak. I have a stack of information that has been so distressing to learn all of this. We know AT&T isn’t going anywhere, and people are going to keep using cell phones where we are in our technology, What we don’t want is where it’s going to impact so many children. I have found so many studies that show, basically there has not been enough information. They haven’t been around long enough.”