They came to demonstrate their opinions, express their views and, hopefully, block the approval of a cell tower near their homes.
More than a dozen residents of the Potomac neighborhoods of Ridgeleigh, Worland and Snug Hill showed up at a hearing of the Montgomery County Tower Committee Feb. 1 to object to the placement of a cell tower on the property of East Gate Swim and Tennis Club at the intersection of Gainsborough Road and Democracy Boulevard.
They were prepared to make their feelings known with a large banner reading, “no tower,” and red t-shirts for protesters to wear printed with “No cell tower at East Gate.”
They wanted the group to have a uniform look, said Heidi Wei, a resident of Worland.
Wei said she is against the tower for health reasons — the fear that radiation from the tower would affect students’ health. Another reason, she said, is that the placement of the tower would have a negative effect on housing prices in the surrounding neighborhoods.
“We are here to show extreme frustration,” said Wei Chen, also a Worland resident. “Verizon has no incentive to let us know [about the proposed tower] and board members of the pool have no incentive to let us know.”
According to several of the people who showed up for the meeting, officers of the East Gate Swim and Tennis Club signed a lease agreement with Verizon before the application was submitted to the county last March, but pool members and local residents did not know about it until a zoning conditional use sign was posted in November 2016.
“We don’t believe he [Michael Faerber, president of the swim club] has the authority of sign the lease and he didn’t notify anyone,” Chen said.
Faerber was not available by phone in his Rockville office but in an email response to questions about the transaction he wrote: “I certainly appreciate your willingness to create a balanced story. However, I would need to bring your request to the entire East Gate Rec Board to see if we would like to provide a statement. I am in no position to act on my own. Given the short notice, I do not believe I would have an answer for you today. I will let you know when I have had an opportunity to talk to the entire Board.”
The Almanac let Faerber know we would hold the story for a week to allow him time to speak with his board but there was no response to that.
The group did not have an opportunity to share their opinions that afternoon as the committee did not discuss the East Gate proposal.
There was a short period of time that it was on the agenda, said Marjorie Williams, chair of the committee, with Montgomery County Department of Technology Services – Office of Cable and Broadband Services. The committee had already reviewed the application so it was sent to the Office of Zoning and Hearings. That office will schedule a public meeting on the tower and that will be when the citizen opinions will be heard.
At this time there is no hearing date set.
When the date comes, those objecting to the tower will be ready with banners, t-shirts and testimony against the project.
What is at stake is Verizon Wireless application to construct an 80 foot monopole and attach 12 panel antennas, six 72 inches high and six, 71 inches high at the top of the pole, according the application filed March 31, 2016.
The property owner on the application is East Gate Recreation Association.