A balloon test on Tuesday let residents in the Bald Hills area of Yelm see how high a proposed cell tower monopole may stand in their neighborhood.
A red balloon soared 150 feet over 14401 Bald Hill Road S.E. in Yelm Tuesday morning, over the proposed site of a 150-foot tall monopole on a five-acre parcel of land.
The monopole would be built by American Tower Corporation, the same company that had proposed constructing a monopole near 16906 153rd Ave. S.E. near Lake Lawrence last July.
It’s not clear if the company is seeking to build a tower at the Bald Hills address instead of the Lake Lawrence address.
Andrew King, a representative for The Meridian Group, which sent out letters to nearby property owners on behalf of American Tower Corporation, said on Tuesday he had no comment on the proposed monopole.
Kelan Moynagh owns Yelm Earthworm and Castings, a business about a quarter-mile from the proposed monopole site. While observing Tuesday’s balloon test, he expressed concern about the proposed location of the monopole.
“I don’t like it,” he said. “I know that people want instant Wi-Fi access and clear phone signals. However, we still don’t know what damage it does to our health right now.”
Moynagh said he’s mostly concerned for the people who live near the proposed monopole site.
“My neighbors don’t want it,” he said. “I’m not here all the time so I won’t be as affected as they are.”
Moynagh said about 10 years ago, his neighbor signed a contract with a company that wanted to put a cell tower on the property. Moynagh opposed it, and he said he got the proposed tower scrapped because his neighbor’s easement through his property stipulated it was for residential use only and the commercial cell tower wasn’t allowed.
He said his neighbor would have received $700 per month for 20 years to host the tower on his property. He said he’s heard some people now receive as much as $2,200 per month to allow cell towers to be built on their property.
A May 2013 blog post by John W. Pestle, a lawyer who has represented property owners for lease negotiations with telecommunications companies, stated a national survey of cell tower rental rates showed about half or two-thirds of recently signed new leases boasted rates between $1,500 to $2,500 per month.
“There’s great incentive, of course, to put it up, but we just don’t know the health effects and to sit underneath a tower and be irradiated all day long,” Moynagh said. “So, your typical microwave oven runs at 2 Gigahertz and now they’re up to 2.2 coming off the tower, so do you want to put your head in a microwave and turn it on?”
In addition to health effects, some nearby residents have expressed concern for cell towers catching fire or falling, citing YouTube videos depicting such events.
Nancy Leslie is Senior Vice President of Originations for Wireless Capital, a company that partners with property owners across the country to “help them gain access to capital via cell site tower and rooftop lease exchange programs,” according to the company’s website.
Leslie said the company manages 3,000 cell tower sites, and none of the towers have ever caught fire or fallen.
“There are permitting things they have to go through,” she said. “They’re required by county regulations to get building permits that meet standards.”
While she said she’s not an expert on the issue of potential health effects of radiation, Leslie said her understanding is studies show cell tower radiation is safe.
Leslie said her company occasionally receives complaints from people living near the cell tower sites they manage, but said generally people like having the income stream that comes from leasing property for a tower.
Most people are more concerned about the aesthetic aspects of the tower than health concerns, she said.
Cell tower companies can minimize the aesthetic impact by making towers that look like trees or flag poles, she said. It’s even fairly common for companies to put cell towers on church steeples so they’re not as visible, she said.
Moynagh said a lot of people living nearby the proposed monopole site have said they would move if the tower goes up. Even some renters have said they’d move, signifying that people with rental properties may have trouble finding new tenants.
“They’re not going to have as large a customer base; it’s going to shrink, especially in this area, because a lot of people have gone to school, gone to RSE (Ramtha School of Enlightenment) and you learn about how the brain functions and what a threat microwaves are.”
Some residents have wondered why the company is looking at residential areas rather than more remote property without people living nearby.
Leslie said it’s likely because even a few miles can make a difference in cell phone reception.
“You want to be where the population is to get better cell reception,” she said. “If you put it way out in the country, three miles from where all the people are, it’s not going to be as good reception.”
Reception shouldn’t be the primary concern, according to Moynagh.
“Unfortunately telecommunications is such a huge industry and they have so much money and power, you know, it’s a hard fight because everybody wants it,” he said. “Everybody wants the convenience of a cell phone, and smart phones now, and that’s hard to disregard. However, at some point if you’re looking at the health of you and your children, if you have children, at some point somebody’s got to say ‘No. Come up with something else.’”