Welcome to the TFCG Community Forum. Residents are encouraged to share their ideas, concerns, insights and questions by commenting on posted topics. We are usually able to respond to concerns and questions within five to ten business days.

Draft Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) and summary released.  ZTA would amend zoning rules related to deployment of smaller antennas on street light poles and lower height buildings.  

Click here for full draft ZTA and click here for summary.  

Public comments and letters may be sent to AntennaZTA@montgomerycountymd.gov .  You can also comment at the bottom of any page or post on this site.

Some residents are commenting via Nextdoor - http://www.nextdoor.com/city/feed. Though NextDoor privacy policies do not allow reposting of comments without permission, if you are a Montgomery County resident with a Nextdoor account, you can review the comments made on a post from "DTS – Office of Cable and Broadband Services Media Services Manager Donna Keating" shared on October 23rd.



  1. There is zero community interest in having cell towers in residential areas.

    This ZTA fails in one key area - safety. Not of wireless radiation but of the poles themselves. Currently streetlights are designed to "break away" when hit by a car. This is good because the light itself is not so heavy and the pole not so tall (typically 15 feet). When a teenager loses control of their vehicle, and hits an existing street pole, it is designed to save their life by falling down.

    What is lost in all the numbers of max heights and distances in this proposed Zoning-Text-Amendment is that these new poles will be much higher than 15 feet (often 30 feet) and the weight at the top is typically 300 pounds. These new poles will be designed to "stand their ground" when hit by a car. That's because if they were to fall they would hit a house and cause other damage. In a very real sense the new poles will be designed to kill our teenage drivers who hit these poles.

    If the technology is not small enough to use existing 15 foot poles that are designed to breakaway, then the technology is not ready. If the technology is not compact enough to limit heat and fan noise, then it is not ready. We should not create legislation that diminishes our safety just because the wireless industry is anxious. The FCC cannot fault us for wanting safe structures built.

    First, if this ZTA does not change its language to mandate that all poles maintain their ability to break away and stay 15 feet tall then it has failed to protect the interests of the people it claims to serve.

    Second, I see nothing here about giving priority for installing this new flavor of Internet service in places that need it. Places lacking fiber Internet could use an alternative and they should be given priority. The locations that are currently proposed for the new wireless residential towers already have fiber optic Internet.

    Third, there should always be a hearing. This ZTA does away with notifying citizens of a new cell tower constructed in front of their bedroom window. That's not right. There should always be a hearing and notice. If we have to give notice and a hearing when we erect a fence on our own property then likewise every cell tower should have a proper hearing.

    Fourth, as part of this ZTA we must mandate that wireless providers give us an app with a big red button to push to "disable" connection to their poles in our residential neighborhoods. We should be able to choose what we connect to and what we don't. If they have to give us this flexibility maybe they'll realize it's not as lucrative as they originally perceived.

  2. I am very concerned about two things:

    1. Ike Leggett has joined elected officials such as Congressman Delaney to urge the FCC to update its 20-year-old safety tests. RF radiation is clearly a health threat — it's on the World Health Org's list of Class 2b Carcinogens and hundreds of scientists and engineers say it causes everything from sleeplessness, nausea and dizziness to DNA damage. That's a fact. Why hasn't the ZTA acknowledged this concern (it is too often said that municipalities cannot decline cell tower applications based on health concerns, but this is not entirely correct. You can, as a municipality, urge the FCC (as Mr. Leggett and Delaney have done) to update the standards and include children in that equation.

    2. I would like to see language in the ZTA that precludes cell towers from being deployed near "sensitive areas" such as schools, daycare centers and nursing homes. These populations are more vulnerable: children have thinner bone density (i.e. skulls) to penetrate, elderly have weaker defense systems. Many other muncipalities around the nation have included set back requirements from such "sensitive areas." Please do the same.

    Thank you.

    1. I totally agree that sensitive areas need to be avoided, especially given how low these antennas will be to the ground. For example, on the interactive map there is a proposed antenna at the Germantown Library (Site 563.07; 19840 Century Blvd). This location is right by the crosswalk and outside seating area where kids wait to be picked up. Sites like these are examples of why we need to have public hearings on proposed antennas as well as buffer zones around sensitive areas.

  3. This zoning amendment is streamlining small cell antennas into neighborhoods by removing the ability of homeowners and residents to be a part of the decision making. In California there is a Bill that is similar to this zoning amendment and many many organizations are voicing strong opposition.

    Through an exemption in the bill, California legislators accept the need to protect the health of firefighters, some of whom have measurable brain abnormalities following years of exposure to cell towers near their stations.

    You can read their letters at this link. https://ehtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/5G-Small-Cell-Letters-Science-Policy-67-page-pdf-.pdf

    The community should have a say in a decision to place a mini cell in front of their home.

  4. I wholeheartedly OPPOSE having cell towers atop poles in residential neighborhoods. There is ample evidence that living in close proximity to cell towers has adverse health outcomes for citizens, particularly children. This is an ill advised, ill considered idea and trying to push this through without a hearing is against the spirit of community stewardship that we are counting on our elected officials to adhere to.

    Megan Montgomery

  5. Please reject this proposal to let small cell towers be fast tracked through zoning approvals. Letting cell companies add to poles is one more way of letting private companies with questionable histories take advantage of the common good. I also agree with all of the concerns above.

  6. I am completely against having these cell towers in my neighborhood. I moved from my last home so that I would not be so close to a cell tower. Research has demonstrated that there can be ill effects from nonionizing radiation. With the rapid proliferation of this in our communities, it is becoming harder and harder to minimize exposure. I think that this technology is being implemented without a full understanding of the potential for ill effects.

  7. I strongly oppose this. I don't believe that the health effects of wireless radiation have been studied enough. Many scientists and doctors recommend a moratorium on the roll-out of the fifth generation, 5G, for telecommunication until potential hazards for human health and the environment have been fully investigated by scientists independent from industry.

  8. I would rather have more, smaller cells than fewer, larger cells. Many parts of the county, particularly residential neighborhoods and crowded downtown districts, have poor coverage or insufficient network capacity. As mobile device usage grows, and the demands of users with increasingly sophisticated devices, we will need more small cells to achieve a satisfactory quality of service.

    The health concerns are overblown, as the frequencies and effective intensity of the RF is relatively harmless in comparison to other sources which residents are less concerned about.

    1. Who is posting this? I suggest stating your name. This radiation is not harmless. The scientific evidence shows DNA damage and cancer, not to mention a myriad of health effects. I suggest reading more research and perhaps the recent Appeal to the EU by over 180 scientists found at this link. https://ehtrust.org/scientists-and-doctors-demand-moratorium-on-5g-warning-of-health-effects/

  9. I do not believe that ZTA does not take into consideration the full scope of approving such antennas. 1) How will you define and limit the "approved" provider list? Who will have access?
    2) How can you assure privacy? How will you ensure that the antenna are only providing output for signal strength and not actually cloaking information gathering?
    3) Who will be checking the antenna regularly to determine only approved boxes exist on a pole and that hitchhikers aren't present? Who will check to ensure that hackers are not using the neighborhood poles for preditorial purposes?
    4) Who will be responsible for pole wear and tear maintenance and damage? How can the country assure us there are no hidden costs to taxpayers?
    5) What testing has been done to determine potential health impact for the community?
    6) Will all of the fixtures run on solar energy alone? If not, how will costs be determined and billed to users?
    7) Again, how can the county ensure the safety of the community from hackers, increased expenses, potential health risks, unwanted service vehicles, and potentially more dangerous poles should they come loose?
    While internet connectivity is important, community safety and well being is more important.

  10. First, I thank County staff for their good, hard work in the public interest while
    ensuring compliance with federal law and FCC rulings.

    While the County must be in compliance with federal law and FCC rulings, the applicant, not the County, should bear the burden of proving that application of County requirements would violate the Federal Telecommunications Act.

    So should it be incumbent on applicants to meet or exceed standards such as the National Electrical Code and the National Electrical Safety Code and any applicable standards the County has in place or adopts in the future that benefit the environment, consumers, and public and workforce safety.

    In a manner that is consistent with any current or future superseding standards such NEIR exposure standards of FCC, applicants should provide the County proof of measures that will be taken to keep the public at a distance from a transmission source. Multi-lingual signage warning of a hazard and indicating contact information for an operator and an emergency contact should be required.

    To protect electrical workers and first responders, applicants should be required to install an onsite emergency shutoff switch that de-energizes RF components and related circuitry. A single shutoff switch should be required for all facilities at a co-location site.

    There may be circumstances in which quick permitting is sensible. However, we need to make sure we do not allow current zoning decisions to cede future opportunities as we set the stage for the next decade of 5G growth and improvement on everything from antenna design to network architecture to the impact on local jobs and the economy. Billion dollar telecommunications companies don’t need public assistance and Montgomery County should be able to leverage our assets to get the best deal possible for residents.

    As others’ comments point out., County leaders and residents must have and preserve the authority to protect residents from corporations that want to override local policy or use public funds and property for private gain. One size fits all citing and permitting could deprive our elected government of oversight. Given the County’s leadership in addressing in equality within our diverse County, just as we eschew interference from state and federal policies that matter to real local people’s lives (minimum wage and sick leave, for example), we should do everything possible in every forum possible to pursue a progressive agenda of shared prosperity in Montgomery County.

  11. For example, we should impose County values around environmental sustainability by requiring that obsolete structures and equipment are removed and recycled within a specified period of time.

    As advocates for residents rights as consumers, the County should develop criteria and pre-qualify contractors who can then perform antenna installations.

    In light of the comments of the first poster regarding pole safety, we must make sure that we are doing everything we can to ensure infrastructure is designed and built out with the best and latest advances in safety. The recent devastation across the US and territories caused by storms should prompt a policy goal: our telecommunication infrastructure should withstand natural disasters without operation disruption. Whether hit by a car or wracked by storm force winds, a fully loaded telecommunications tower must be as safely anchored as currently possible for residents. Likewise, I think it is wise to codify that connections between components and facilities and lines must be protected against natural disaster. It should be required that applicants provide the County with a plan that demonstrates how, in the event of a disaster, they will remain operational. Such plans should require inclusion of the installation of back-up generators. Of course, the County should have proof of compliance.

    To help alleviate concerns about antenna location, the County should insist that in order to locate in residential zones, the placement must provide personal wireless services to residents and businesses within Montgomery County and be installed in a way that detracts as little as possible from neighborhood character. The County can further require an applicant to identify not just one site, but another alternative site that could provide comparable services.

    It is, after all, important that, in addition to discussing where we don’t want towers, residents and elected officials weigh where wired and wireless networks should be prioritized. Applicants should be guided by broadly shared goals like managing commercial use of public property and maintaining attractive roads and neighborhoods while creating and growing robust mobile broadband services to historically underutilized and underserved areas, as well as areas where use is high at known periods of times like federal employment facilities and sports venues.

    As a resident, the thing that is most important to me is local job creation and economic development. If providers need zoning changes and / or county approval they should meet hiring requirements set forth by Montgomery County. Residents of Montgomery County should work on and learn on the job. Wages and benefits should be in accordance with industry standards and the cost of living in Montgomery County. When technologies expand so should job opportunities for Montgomery County residents with the most barriers to employment opportunities like veterans, single parents, and the formerly incarcerated.

    I moved to Silver Spring from San Diego, CA where we were already using new technologies to enable intelligent transportation and energy systems. This includes the use of sensors in streetlights that collect data to improve traffic flow and parking and track air quality, saving the City millions of dollars a year. We in Montgomery County should not let the telecommunication companies dictate local decision making around jobs and workforce development, especially when 5G has so much potential to create savings and economic growth.

  12. This comment has been posted on behalf of Sue Present by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    The County should stop telling us that, unless the CE’s ZTA is adopted hook-line-and-sinker, the FCC will pre-empt local regulatory authority. That message is NOT credible! Last year, when the PHED Committee reviewed ZTA 16-05, it asked staff to examine other jurisdictions’ solutions. Whatever happened? Instead of incorporating other communities’ best practices, the CE’s ZTA has taken a rigid approach, giving a lot to the industry and taking a lot from residents/property owners. The draft CE’s ZTA, even more so than its predecessor (ZTA 16-05), unnecessarily and dangerously sacrifices our safety; property values; the aesthetics of our neighborhoods, streetscapes, and skylines; and many traditions and priorities that have been the bedrock of County policies. And it threatens our public resources, too.

    This ZTA is still a draft, continuing to undergo changes. As a result, many uncertainties remain, such as:
    o How will promised new language for “replacements” prohibit Spectrum Act extensions of 10 – 20 feet in height?
    o What is the scope and text of intended revisions to planned Tower Committee regulations?
    o What are the details of the new MOU with PEPCO that are supposed to limit pole heights (and I presume would limit additional poles, too)?

    However, enough information has already been produced to demonstrate that this ZTA and companion legislation/regulations/policies must be further modified to sufficiently:
    o Protect County residents’ and workforce safety;
    o Preserve the aesthetic qualities of our neighborhoods, buildings, streetscapes, and skylines;
    o Provide greater flexibility/alternatives for reviews;
    o Ensure residents/property owners fair notice, access to records, transparent government activities, and the opportunities to participate in application reviews;
    o Fund all review, monitoring, and oversight services solely through application fees;
    o Align with the underlying Zoning Ordinance and other laws/regulations, and to maintain Community Compatibility; and
    o Instill Countywide trust in the systems, agencies, and officials that would be the sole reviewers and approvers of so many more antennas and cell towers, when they have heretofore let the public down through their obfuscation, violation of County regulations, and subservience to the wireless industry.

    -- Sue Present

  13. The service providers want this zoning exception to override due process and fast-track their latest money-making service. They want a means to continue to override public objections in the future, as long as the footprint of these devices does not grow.

    Warnings about local zoning opposing FCC rulings are a distraction. These new micro-transmitters are "more" rather than "instead of". Opposing them or modifying their footprint is not restraint of trade.

    Service providers, in exchange for the privilege of using our public infrastructure, should maintain and improve the physical plant that it relies on. That is, our wired and fiber optic infrastructure, the conduits that carry signals through the streets to the poles, the pavement that is disrupted when new cables are installed.

    Wired services are inherently more weather-safe, reliable, secure, and capable of higher speed and capacity. Service providers want more microwave delivery because it minimizes their commitment to maintaining measurable end-user deliverables that wired service provides: call clarity, transmission rates, bandwidth, up-time.

    When this technology is superseded by the next-big-thing, who will be accountable for removing these eyesores? They cannot be abandoned in-place, as so much CATV cable has been already.

    Technology must serve safety. We need breakaway poles, equal or lower pole heights, and no added equipment on poles. Equipment on poles is vulnerable to weather, animal infestation and vandalism. Equipment buried underground, near the pole, is:
    * easier, and cheaper, to maintain going forward
    * less vulnerable to lightning strikes
    * less likely to receive bleed-through interference
    * out of sight of kids
    Run just the signal connector to the antenna atop the pole.

    By law, providers should be required to prove that additional transmitters are needed by (a) showing that signal strength is measurably lower in a given area even though it is the same distance from current towers and, (b) that each proposed new tower will actually meet the public's need, rather than create additional interference or displace their competitor.

    Today, the Internet is our broadcast medium. It has displaced broadcast TV as the delivery mechanism for weather, news, public discourse, emergency notifications. Our public infrastructure is a common good that is held by the taxpayers and must be controlled, maintained and operated for their benefit. Public rights-of-way, public infrastructure, are administered by due process, through public hearings.

  14. My family and I are STRONGLY AGAINST this proposal. I do not wish to submit myself or my four young children to the radiation that these towers will emit. I currently take measures to keep my family with minimal exposure to radiation. Placing this in my residential neighborhood would cause my family to move as it would be detrimental to our health. When you sleep you get the most restorative sleep and placing these towers close to our homes will cause families to not get the best sleep to live a healthy life. NO MORE RADIATION PLEASE! We get enough in our everyday lives in schools, restaurants, malls, libraries, train stations, etc. Let us decide at least how much or how little we want in our homes or near our homes. Let the science prove that the radiation is not unsafe. (Sadly it currently doesn't) Don't let this be the lead epidemic of our generation.

  15. FCC first needs to update RF emission standards. Until then no progress whatsoever should be made on considering any changes. The premise that these smaller antennas are needed in residential areas because there is more video streaming on cell phones is backed up by what exactly? If you're in your home, you can use broadband/wifi for that. Passing motorists shouldn't be streaming videos not to get distracted. I am strongly against this proposal. It does not serve any public interest but makes use of public space. Corporate interests should not override residents' health concerns.

  16. This comment has been posted on behalf of Erick C. by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    First, the energy level of radiofrequency (RF) waves is relatively low, especially when compared with the types of radiation that are known to increase cancer risk, such as gamma rays, x-rays, and ultraviolet (UV) light. The energy of RF waves given off by cell phone towers is not enough to break chemical bonds in DNA molecules, which is how these stronger forms of radiation may lead to cancer.
    A second issue has to do with wavelength. RF waves have long wavelengths, which can only be concentrated to about an inch or two in size. This makes it unlikely that the energy from RF waves could be concentrated enough to affect individual cells in the body.
    Third, even if RF waves were somehow able to affect cells in the body at higher doses, the level of RF waves present at ground level is very low – well below the recommended limits. Levels of energy from RF waves near cell phone towers are not significantly different from the background levels of RF radiation in urban areas from other sources, such as radio and television broadcast stations.


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  18. This comment has been posted on behalf of Susanna Sammons by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    I am 100% AGAINST so called “small” antennas on street lights and lower-height buildings. These things have no place in residential areas; keep them to business areas. People don’t want these eyesores in neighborhoods.

  19. This comment has been posted on behalf of T. York by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    What communities across America can we look to for previous deployment of these proposed changes? Where is there longitudinal data regarding their efficacy and impact? Please provide this information and resources to the community for review and comment before approval of zoning changes.
    Thank you

  20. This comment has been posted on behalf of Kathy H. by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    My husband and I as homeowners oppose the installation of these antennas. They are an eyesore and their possible health risks outweigh any benefit.

  21. This comment has been posted on behalf of George Powers by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    To state it simply, the more robust coverage, the better. If the county can require sharing of small antennas, even better.

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. This comment has been posted on behalf of David Heiser by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    If the new communication towers have to come into established neighborhoods, I strongly support a zoning amendment requiring telecommunications providers to replace, at their cost and following strict county specifications, existing light posts which should not exceed five feet higher than their current height.

    I would also require providers to remove, refill, and resod all holes already dug in the neighborhoods. They are ugly and detract from neighborhood landscaping as much as the Pepco electrical boxes.

    I also support using existing commercial and government buildings to host the antennas to cut down on the number installed in residential areas.

    I support the prohibition on attaching antennas to single and multifamily housing units.

    Thank you

  24. This comment has been posted on behalf of T. York by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    I tried to post my comment on the Small Antenna Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) Comment Board but even after going through all the account hoops requested of me, it didn't post there. Tragic. Commenting on the Comment Board should be easy to do. No wonder there's only one comment there right now.

    I do not believe that ZTA does not take into consideration the full scope of approving such antennas. 1) How will you define and limit the "approved" provider list? Who will have access to poles throughout the county?
    2) How can you assure privacy? How will you ensure that the antenna are only providing output for signal strength and not actually cloaking information gathering?
    3) Who will be checking the antenna regularly to determine only approved boxes exist on a pole and that hitchhikers aren't present? Who will check to ensure that hackers are not using the neighborhood poles for predatory purposes? Or that someone has cloaked a surveillance device on a pole?
    4) Who will be responsible for pole wear and tear maintenance and damage? How can the country assure us there are no hidden costs to taxpayers?
    5) What testing and data is there to determine potential health impact for the community?
    6) Will all of the fixtures run on solar energy? If not, how will costs be determined and billed to users? And, why not solar?
    7) Again, how can the county ensure the safety of the community from hackers, increased expenses, potential health risks, unwanted service vehicles, neighborhood predators masgarading as service technicians parked on the street, and potentially more dangerous poles due to height and weight should they come loose?
    8) Height increase up to 5' is a lot and puts fixtures nearer to upstairs window view in residential areas. Up to 10' is a great deal and adds risk near traffic areas should it go down. What testing data is provided to determine antenna benefits at different heights? How has the safety of poles at these differing heights been determined? What about in heavy wind conditions?
    9) How will approval and installation of antennas on buildings negatively impact future energy opportunities to place small wind or solar collectors on building corners?

    It's hard to believe the county government is all about expanding "cell towers" and yet has done nothing to move toward energy efficiency by getting over the big windmill and solar panel thinking and bringing us closer to the high-tech innovations used around the world.

    While internet connectivity is important, community safety and well being is more important.

    I would like my concerns shared at the upcoming October 23rd meeting please.
    Thank you
    T York, resident

  25. This comment has been posted on behalf of Carolyn Weiss by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    To County Executive Leggett and Councilmembers:

    My husband and I have a six year-old daughter and we bought our home in Montgomery County in early 2013. When we bought our home, and when we picked a day care center for our daughter, we steadfastly avoided cell phone/radio towers or large transmission lines/substations. We did this not based on a knee-jerk fear but rather after reading studies and literature reviews by the WHO, the European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks, NIH/NCI and other agencies. Although we recognized the data aren't conclusive, we saw enough support for concern about the relationship between such radiation exposure and childhood leukemia to make decisions based on it. The ultimate question was, why take the risk?

    I'm an attorney and, although I'm not a torts attorney, I remember from torts class in law school that there is a formula used to assess harm. One looks at the risk of the event occurring and multiplies it by the degree of harm that results if the event occurs. The question is not whether there is proof that low-grade, long-term exposure to such radiation causes childhood leukemia. The question is whether there is a reasonable basis for concern based on the existing research (there is) and whether the harm of childhood leukemia is an extremely serious, negative result (it obviously is).

    While the increased rate, if it occurred, would likely not be an epidemic, would a few more children with leukemia in every school district (or even across the county) be an acceptable price to pay for an increase in convenience and profit for companies that create the small cell towers, and any supposed increased convenience to members of the County? The answer has to be a resounding "no," and I imagine everyone would agree if someone told them that it would be their child.

    People tend to disregard what feel like theoretical risks and assume that any harm will not adhere to them personally. This lets individuals make--or lobby for--choices they wouldn't otherwise make. However, we need our public servants to make the hard choices and stand in the way of unnecessary harm to our residents. There is just no calculus under which the risk is acceptable.

    I would also mention that I don't believe it's good for the County's reputation as a good place to live. People who might otherwise move here might think twice with this potential public health issue throughout the County; indeed, we would have been affected by it when we made a choice where to move. And 19 to 45 feet is not small, even if the towers/antennas are smaller than traditional cell towers. They are an eyesore.

    More--including more WiFi access--is not always better.

    Thank you for the chance to comment.

  26. This comment has been posted on behalf of Tracey Foley by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    This is an imminent domain issue. You give access to property and known health risks, the county and the providers must compensate the property owners and residents in advance.

    Can you afford the costs??

    Tracey Foley

  27. This comment has been posted on behalf of Michael Kroiss by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    I was not able to attend the public hearing tonight, but I wanted to express my concern over the potential for installing small wireless antennas throughout the county.

    These antennas emit a high amount of energy. There are known medical concerns for people exposed to more powerful antennas for extended periods of time. The health effects of these lower power antennas are not yet known. I have two small children and I do not want them to be exposed to something whose health effects are not yet known.


  28. This comment has been posted on behalf of Lauren Milone by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    I oppose 4G/5G wireless small cells due to the health and environmental hazards it presents. I oppose the preemption of local zoning rights. Irradiation is a problem for those of us with chronic illness as well as the young and elderly and this careless disregard to health and safety is unconscionable and needs to be stopped. I specially avoided buying a house near cell phone towers and find it outrageous that small cells might be placed around my property and not even be told about it. Keep them away from my house. And stop this foolishness. Cease and desist!

    Lauren Milone

  29. This comment has been posted on behalf of Kara Fisher by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    As a resident of Montgomery County, I am against having small cell towers placed on residential or regional lights and poles. There is no reliable safety data that shows the electromagnetic radiation is not harming my three small children.

    It is further aggravating that we were only given 72 hours notice for the community meetings and you propose to remove our rights to be informed or protest against the specific locations of these wifi devices.

    Kara Fisher

  30. This comment has been posted on behalf of Lisa Schnoor by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    Dear County Council,

    As you decide on regulations for small antenna zoning, I hope that you will take to heart the serious health problems these small antennas will cause for residents with sensitivities to wireless radiation.

    I am one such resident, living in a separate apartment in friends’ single family home. Because of my sensitivities, my friends and I use only wired electronics in the home: no cell phones, no cordless phones, no wi-fi, no smart meter. My friends have gone to great lengths to make their home safe for me.

    I am currently housebound because of the ubiquitousness of wireless radiation. I cannot even take a walk on our street because of a small cell tower at the top of the street (.4 of a mile away). We have measured the radiation from the tower on our street and it doubles just between our house and the next house closer to the tower.

    Small Antenna Zoning will make the amount of radiation coming into our home even higher and there will be no safe areas for those, like me, who are sensitive to EMF/RF. It will also mean no safe areas for pregnant woman who might choose to make their homes wireless-free for the sake of their developing baby.

    Of course the wireless industry will assure us their technology is safe, but we have plenty of examples over our country’s history of industry promoting what is later found not to be safe (cigarette smoke, asbestos, etc…). There are plenty of scientific studies indicating wireless frequencies do cause health problems for some, and aren’t safe for fetuses and infants.

    The World Health Organization does recognize the problem of electromagnetic hypersensitivity. I don’t believe it’s recognized in the US yet, but I’m hoping that one day it will be a recognized disability here.

    Please, please, please do not allow small antennas for wireless into our neighborhoods. Let those who choose to minimize wireless in their homes, for whatever the reason, be able to continue to do so.

    Lisa Schnoor

  31. This comment has been posted on behalf of Annabel Barger by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    I am very concerned about the safety of our children should this amendment pass. Given the increasing evidence about the effects of radiation from cellular towers and devices, this seems like a no brainer. And given our current national political climate, I would think that Montgomery County would be in favor of transparency and of allowing its citizens to have a say in what happens outside their front doors.

    Annabel Barger

  32. This comment has been posted on behalf of Sue Present by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    Dear Council President Berliner and Members of the County Council,

    Please withdraw or table the Resolution to approve Franchise Agreement for Use of Public Right-of-Way: Fiber Technologies Networks, LLC (a.k.a. Fibertech), scheduled on the Tuesday (09/12/17) County Council Meeting agenda as item 5E, for Introduction. The Council Packet information reveals that the County government and franchisees are continuing their collaborative pattern of circumventing fair and reasonable notice to the public. Burying obscured information in the legal section of a newspaper about the County’s intent to authorize occupancies of public rights-of-way is not fair notice when it is used as the exclusive way to notify abutting residents and property owners, especially in the middle of the summer. And I question whether the particular published notice(s) provided sufficient detail and clarity to fulfill the requirements of Section 49-20(a) of the County Code (example below).

    I am also concerned that the proposed Fibertech franchise agreement may authorize the aerial (above ground) installations of telecommunications lines, in conflict with the County’s 2014 Zoning Ordinance. Section 3.6.7.A.2 provides that “Where a Distribution Line (Above Ground) is allowed as a limited use, only electric distribution lines are allowed.”

    Moreover, I am quite concerned because Fibertech produces the backhaul for outdoor DAS (distributed antenna systems) and small cell facilities. As a result, this new franchise agreement would authorize the essential components of DAS and small cell facilities that wireless infrastructure developers are planning for the County public rights-of-way in numerous residential neighborhoods. The County projects that hundreds of those planned facilities would be impacted by the fate of the County Executive’s 2017 ZTA - “Telecommunications Towers – Limited Use.”

    My September 5, 2017 e-mail correspondence to County Executive Leggett, on which the entire County Council was copied, raises very serious problems with that ZTA. And, as my e-mail explains, there are related problems with the Road Code, too; new franchise agreements and the franchise approval process should be improved to:

    1) Better protect neighborhoods;

    2) Require mailed notice to residents/property owners and require posted signage at affected locations;

    3) Hold the franchisees to fair service throughout the entire County; and

    4) Ensure public hearings and Council committee reviews.

    For further details on the problems with the existing franchise agreements and approval process, see the February issue of the MCCF Civic News, page 5: http://montgomerycivic.org/files/CFN201702.pdf .

    The fact that the old Fibertech franchise agreement expired in 2016 demonstrates that there is no urgency for the introduction of a resolution and a public hearing. Please act now to correct the problems.

    Withdraw or Table the Fibertech Resolution;
    Correct the deficits that exist in the County’s Franchise Agreements and Sections 49-20 and 49-21 of the Road Code;
    Beginning with Fibertech, provide Montgomery County with a model franchise agreement and new processes in the Road Code that fairly and appropriately serve the public interest.


    Sue Present

  33. This comment has been posted on behalf of Sherri Felton by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    Please consider out family a “No, thank you” to any additional cell towers in the neighborhood of Waters Landing. We are COMPLETELY uninterested and will continue to be. The health studies alone are enough to conclude that this is a horrible idea.
    Thank you but NO.
    Sherri Felton

  34. This comment has been posted on behalf of Donna Baron by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    Ms. Williams,
    I couldn’t find the tall brown metal pole that I saw earlier but this cell tower on Falls Road in Potomac would be acceptable on Darnestown Road and Dufief Mill Road. The tower is hugely tall, not ugly and would cover a large area. Westleigh, Dufief and Flints Grove are linear and follow Darnestown Road and Dufief Mill Road. Also, Westleigh, Dufief and Flints Grove slant down toward the Muddy Branch Creek so if these towers were put on the Darnestown Road and Dufief Mill Road, we are all downhill from those roads which would make the towers very effective. There is no defensible reason to put 13 cell towers in our front yards.
    Donna Baron

  35. This comment has been posted on behalf of Theodora Scarato by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    Dear Ms. Herrera and County Executive Ike Leggett and Montgomery County Council members,

    I asked a question at the September meeting. I will ask it again in relation to the proposed ZTA draft amendment that will allow microwave antennas into our neighborhood front yards with no public notice or hearing.

    Crown Castle states in their 10k report to shareholders
    “If radio frequency emissions from wireless handsets or equipment on our wireless infrastructure are demonstrated to cause negative health effects, potential future claims could adversely affect our operations, costs or revenues.”

    “The potential connection between radio frequency emissions and certain negative health effects, including some forms of cancer, has been the subject of substantial study by the scientific community in recent years.”

    “We cannot guarantee that claims relating to radio frequency emissions will not arise in the future or that the results of such studies will not be adverse to us… If a connection between radio frequency emissions and possible negative health effects were established, our operations, costs, or revenues may be materially and adversely affected. We currently do not maintain any significant insurance with respect to these matters."
    Crown Castle- 2016 10-K ANNUAL REPORT

    “We are subject to a significant amount of litigation, which could require us to pay significant damages or settlements.
    …our wireless business also faces personal injury and consumer class action lawsuits relating to alleged health effects of wireless phones or radio frequency transmitters, and class action lawsuits that challenge marketing practices and disclosures relating to alleged adverse health effects of handheld wireless phones. We may incur significant expenses in defending these lawsuits. In addition, we may be required to pay significant awards or settlements.”
    Verizon Communications Inc. 2016 10-K ANNUAL REPORT

    So my questions are these:
    1. Who will be liable if this radiation is proven to cause cancer and health effects ? The county, Crown Castle, the council members, the Wireless Companies? If the county owns the streetlight, who is liable?
    2. What insurance does the county hold in this regard- in terms of exposure to electromagnetic fields? What insurance do Council members hold in this regard- in terms of exposure to electromagnetic fields?
    3. Please send me the insurance policies that the county has to deal with such liability issues that likely will arise.
    4. Will Council members be held personally liable for voting to allow this radiation exposure to the public?
    5. Will County Executive staff be held liable for drafting this zoning amendment allowing this exposure to the public without informing them of the risks, potential and research base indicating effects at levels below FCC limits?
    6. Considering these are county owned poles and streetlights, who is the responsible party for harm?
    7. Will you be informing the public that safety is not assured?

  36. This comment has been posted on behalf of Theodora Scarato by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    … [Continuing from previous post] I especially would ask each County Council member to inform their community lists about the October meeting so that citizens can be present to understand the issue and have a voice. I understand the Council is not voting until after they are presented with thedraft but that will be soon and the people have largely been left out of the discussion. Councilmembers could inform the public as the County is not adequately informing the public about the "community" meetings nor the details of the ZTA in understandable terms.

    It seems to me that if Crown Castle and Verizon Wireless and making such statements to their shareholders then the county should be also informing the citizens of this as well. I am attaching a pdf of scientists letters and below I have details of the statements made by wireless companies in regards to liability and risk.

    I also would like to clearly inform the County and Council members that these transmitters placed near homes will increase the populations exposure to wireless technology, posing a serious health risk to the citizens as this radiation is untested for log term safety research indicates biological effects as notes in the attached letters from scientists regarding a similar streamlining initiative in California. The county should be doing everything in their power to minimize exposure- rather than increase it. I also am informing the County and Council members that they may share in the liability and risk when people become sick from this increased exposure.

    Please see the information I have in this email and please respond to my questions soon- hopefully before the October meeting.
    Thank you so very much,
    Theodora Scarato

  37. This comment has been posted on behalf of Sue Present by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services [part 1 of 3]:

    Dear County Executive Leggett,

    Your proposed 2017 Zoning Text Amendment concerning “Telecommunications Towers – Limited Use” is extremely disappointing. It gives priority and favor to wireless infrastructure developers’ ROI at the expense of County residents’ safety, property values, rights to due process, and general welfare. In many ways, this ZTA is far worse than ZTA 16-05, which was roundly rejected last year. The attachment and this link [Moderator’s note- the url exceeded the maximum length for this platform.] provide further details of my concerns. But here are several of the ZTA’s big problems.

    It eliminates the 300-ft residential setback, which thereby exposes residential properties and neighborhoods to new threats from both micro-towers and macro-towers.

    It eliminates the off-site dwelling setback for wireless antenna attachments, and it redefines poles that replace streetlight poles as existing cell towers when they support wireless antenna attachments and equipment, thereby exempting the replacement cell towers from the need to comply with building/structure setback standards. Regardless of the distance from a residence, the ZTA establishes the replacement cell towers as Limited Uses.

    It establishes differing heights for cell towers that replace streetlight poles for antenna attachments and equipment as Limited Uses, which are based not upon the distance from abutting residences or other sensitive uses, but instead based upon the wireless infrastructure developers’ requirements for achieving transmission coverage in different locations.

    It establishes cell towers as Limited Uses in parking lots that immediately abut residential properties/neighborhoods. Parking lot light poles are authorized through the ZTA to be replaced by taller poles (cell towers) that support an unlimited number of antenna attachments.

    It authorizes as Limited Uses the unlimited number of antenna attachments/enclosures on low-height buildings that abut residential properties. These attachments/enclosures could alter the building’s bulk, scale, and perceived height, undermine neighborhood compatibility, and could obstruct neighboring residential properties’ viewsheds, light, and access to passive solar energy.

    By eliminating setback standards, it authorizes attachments on a utility distribution pole as a Limited Use, regardless of the pole’s proximity to a residence (which in many older neighborhoods, or where a pole has been moved to expand a roadway, may be a very close proximity).

    At the same time that this ZTA removes the setback standards that protect residential properties, it increases the size of the antennas (now with enclosure dimensions), which along with the related (and often large) equipment, the ZTA authorizes as a Limited Use.

    It paves the way for further cell tower expansions via the federal Spectrum Act, which classifies replacement poles as new structures and thereby permits expansion of poles both in public rights-of-way and on private property, after installation.

    Its language to protect aesthetics is grossly inadequate, which thereby assures a degradation in the visual appearance of structures and neighborhoods throughout the County. {continued}

  38. This comment has been posted on behalf of Sue Present by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services [part 2 of 3]:

    A variety of problems require amending other aspects of the County Code. Consider, for example, that the ZTA creates or exacerbates the following safety issues in its expansion of Limited Uses:

    Any antenna attached to a pole or other structure that would be felled or dangle upon collision could pose RF exposure threats to emergency responders and civilians. These devices, on both public and private properties, should be required to have on-site transmission shut-offs.

    Strict concealment provisions are important to ensure that the numerous anticipated antenna attachments would be compatible with surrounding areas. But workers/contractors who maintain buildings and properties with antenna attachments should also be protected from hidden RF exposures. On-site transmission shut-offs should be required at these locations, too.

    Antennas attached to poles in public rights-of-way have caused serious, even catastrophic, damage and injuries in other jurisdictions. It is reasonable and necessary for affected residents to have notice of applications and to be involved in the decision processes that could prevent hazardous installations in Montgomery County.

    Any heavy replacement pole (a.k.a. small cell tower) along a roadway or in a parking lot should be a “breakaway pole” to prevent catastrophic injury or damage. Also, additional restrictions should be imposed on the dimensions and locations of the ground-mounted equipment permitted with Limited Use deployments. It could cause hazards for pedestrian and vehicular traffic when placed along roadways or in parking lots near replacement light poles.

    It is additionally reasonable and consistent with the Road Code and companion Regulations to expect the County’s Department of Transportation (DOT) to collaborate with neighborhood associations, homeowners’ associations, business associations, and the like in developing standards for any pole and/or related equipment for wireless antennas that the County allows in neighborhoods. Poles and equipment should be compatible with the surrounding aesthetics, not just safe.

    Within the Road Code are also the laws concerning the County’s franchise agreements and the process by which they are approved. The County cannot unilaterally renegotiate existing agreements. But concurrently with the ZTA, the agreements and their approval processes can and should be improved so that going forward, they would: 1) better protect neighborhoods; 2) hold the franchisees to fair service throughout the entire County; 3) require mailed notice to residents/property owners and posted signage at affected locations; and 4) ensure public hearings and Council committee reviews.

    The County expects hundreds of wireless facility applications in the near future (some are pending), many of which would be located in close proximity to residences and other sensitive uses. So, by making so many of these facilities eligible for Limited Use reviews, the ZTA shifts greater power onto specific internal County agencies. As a result, concurrent companion legislative amendments are also needed to effectively respond to the challenges that agencies, such as the Department of Permitting Services (DPS) and the Transmission Facility Coordinating Group (a.k.a. Tower Committee or TFCG) will face, and to ensure that these agencies properly serve the public. {continued}

  39. Regarding placing heavy small cell antennas on existing poles:

    1. Have engineering studies been done to determine if the existing poles are structurally capable of having a heavy weight mounted on the top of the pole? Note, this needs to be done for both dynamic and static loads.

    2. Also, if a small cell antenna is mounted on the top of a light pole, the light pole, which is designed with break-away bolts at the bottom, so that if hit by a car the pole will basically fall over, now becomes a killing machine, with a 200 pound weight at the top of it.

    3. Finally, all small cell antennas should be mounted on specially designed poles that are far away from roads, so as not be a danger to cars and humans

  40. This comment has been posted on behalf of Sue Present by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services [part 3 of 3]:

    The June 14th Community Meeting on Wireless Technology alluded to telecommunication facilities that have been deployed without inspections and have not been built as promised or authorized (see slide/pg. 12). Yet, without explanation of the apparent oversights or analysis of the impacts, the County suggests that DPS will miraculously improve and that, in the future, the public should expect “100% post-construction inspections” and “deployments [that] are built as promised.” This revelation of prior inspection lapses, combined with the County’s reports and projections of unprecedented increases in wireless applications and deployments, is cause for concern. DPS needs to establish or re-establish public trust: 1) It should be transparent about what caused the inspection lapses and disconnects between approvals and deployments; 2) It should convey and seek public support for its detailed strategy for correcting the problems; and 3) DPS legislation, concurrent with the ZTA, should enhance public accessibility and participation in wireless application reviews, permitting, inspection, and code enforcement. The legislation should demonstrate DPS’s new policy commitments to serve and support residents by: 1) ensuring affected residents receive advance notice of wireless applications; 2) providing affected residents a voice in the wireless application review process; and 3) making provisions for the public to monitor the applications under review by DPS. The concurrent DPS legislation should also adopt mechanisms that other local governments have successfully utilized to make reviews, permitting, and inspections of wireless antennas and cell towers more effective for residents and neighborhoods.

    The TFCG’s noncompliant review processes, inadequate public access to records, and its exclusion of residents from proper notice, fair representation, and due-process participation have been longstanding problems. Without major legislative changes, the ZTA would leave this dysfunctional review body with substantially more power to impact the fate of residential properties and neighborhoods.

    The public has been told to expect that cell tower and antenna legislation will be reviewed every three years. Veiled as needed to accommodate the changes in future technology, this commitment for routine, periodic reviews is essentially a promise to further erode the protections to residential properties and neighborhoods on a tri-annual basis in order to feed the insatiable appetite of wireless infrastructure developers. Surely, the authors of this ZTA could have built flexibility for future technology into the legislation. A three-year review is unnecessary and dangerous!

    In conclusion, this ZTA does not comport with the stated purposes of the Zoning Ordinance, and it undermines the legislative intents of the original cell tower legislation: to minimize the negative impact on residential areas, and to encourage the placement of antennas and towers at less intrusive sites, such as on industrial and commercial lands. The ZTA ignores: 1) both good examples and disastrous ones in other communities, nationwide; 2) the prior advice of the Planning Board to establish separation distances; and 3) the conflicts and impacts that would be created within the Zoning Ordinance and between other chapters of the Code. In so many ways this ZTA undermines good planning and zoning, and the County’s responsibilities to its residents. Montgomery County deserves much better!

    Sue Present

  41. Please note- here is the url from Ms. Present's post, part 1 of 3, that was removed due to loading error. Please let me know if it does not work. -SF


  42. This comment has been posted on behalf of Jared Hautamaki by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    Cable companies were required to upgrade existing cable via contract subsidies, franchise agreements and Congressional enactment and have falied to live up to their commitments nationwide.

    Moreover, I support community owned and operated internet as access to information is a public utility not a for profit enterprise.

    I'm opposed to any zoning amendments that further subsidize cable and internet companies, especially those that have failed to upgrade the existing infrastructure they committed to.

    Jared Hautamaki

  43. This comment has been posted on behalf of Bill Agnostak by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:

    Briefly, there is considerable consternation by the residents of the Westleigh Homeowners' Association, North Potomac, regarding the proposed installation of cell towers in OUR residential neighborhoods. As our neighborhood is nearly 50 years old, there is, arguably great concern over, among other matters, health, property values, safety, maintenance, etc. Additionally, as our neighborhood was one of the early below ground installation of utilities it is quite aesthetically pleasing to only have trees and the required street lighting, which are a great incentive towards living in our community.

    As we are surrounded by a large swath of both a State maintained drainage easement along Rt. 28/Darnstown Road and the Muddy Branch Creek, we posit that these areas would be more suited for any cell tower installation.

    It would be naive to be opposed to changing telecommunications "improvements" which we rely heavily on, but we also need some accommodation to the residents who pay taxes, live there, and will be subject to the long-term impacts (good and bad) of such proposed (cell tower) installations. As has been noted in the past regarding major community changes, there should be a preponderance of benefit/merit to these "alterations," which must be clearly articulated and ... the negatives addressed by sound technical/medical study.

    There will undoubtedly be substantially more comments from all affected residents, which need to be considered and measured as to the merits of all affected parties.

    Thank you for your considerations and for the opportunity to voice our concerns.

    Bill Agnostak, President, Westleigh HOA

  44. This comment has been posted on behalf of Bonnie Sen and Tom Milavec by the Office of Cable and Broadband Services:


    As residents and business owners both living and working in Montgomery County - my wife and I would like to submit our support for added communication towers and equipment to better cover our county. As residents in Germantown - our cell coverage is deplorable, not to mention the cable speeds and reliability sometime stun our productivity. We find this one of the largest detractors for continuing to live and bring business to this community is the poor tech upgrades that are basic service requirements for it’s citizens. We have been attracted to other counties because of their tech coverage - I hope Montgomery country can catchup!

    We would be more than happy to discuss our support for this with your staff if they request - we were unable to attend the last meeting on October, 23. Thanks for hearing and counting our support for these long overdue improvements!

    Bonnie Sen
    Tom Milavec


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