On Wed., Apr. 4 at the Town of Chester Planning Board meeting, we listened to Verizon representatives pitch their proposal to install cellular antennas on top of the Kings Estates water tower, located off Kings Hwy. The Verizon representative’s presentation focused mainly on the esthetics of the project. She spoke in detail of height, color, and other descriptive terms while offering misleading photographs taken from positions that obscured the true, everyday vantage of neighbors.
Members of the community object to this project as a matter of health and safety. The radio frequencies emitted by such towers have been linked to cancer and other medical issues. Installing cellular antennas so close to residential homes is potentially unsafe to those who live and play in the area surrounding this project.
Verizon representatives were quick to point out federal regulations that prohibit local boards from considering health and safety concerns during the approval process since the “Government has deemed them safe.” It was “government” who deemed the water in Flint, Michigan safe to drink. It was government who deemed oxicodone safe. One only needs to be a customer of Verizon for a short time to attest to their truthfulness and integrity. Are we to trust that federally acceptable levels for exposure to harmful radio frequencies are monitored at a remote location that is visited “a few times a year” according to Verizon officials?
Has any government agency investigated what, if any, effect that cellular towers have on drinking water when located on water towers? Would we trust the results?
Members of the community object to locating this cellular tower in close proximity to a residential neighborhood. It will have a negative impact to property values. The community most affected by this project is Kings Estates, a town home community, with demographics of a high percentage of African American and Hispanic homeowners. Town homes of this nature are mid-ranged affordable housing for first time homebuyers, retired and middle-income families. Families looking to buy homes will be reluctant to purchase homes located near cell towers. It will reduce the pool of persons willing to purchase thereby eroding property value and home equity.
We listened, ad nauseam, to politicians and pundits speak of institutional racism. The whole while, I searched for examples of their charge. In this case, Verizon’s site selection is suspect. This corporation chose a location on the boarder of the Town of Chester where the bulk of the families affected live in the Town of Warwick. A brilliant strategy since there is no political fallout for Chester politicians since the people affected are not constituents. The people affected are middle income, hard working families not likely to have the power and resources to fight off such a large company with teams of lawyers at their disposal. I never imagined that I only needed to look in my back yard to find such a blatant example of institutional racism. We should not allow this corporation to shrink property values and home equity of families who can least afford it for the convenience of a few bars of cellular signal. Inadequate cellular capacity should not come at the real dollar expense of homeowners.
The water company gains a windfall in rent from Verizon. In spite of their windfall, they are under no obligation to reduce rates or make improvements to water infrastructure or quality with that new sack of cash. Verizon has other options. They choose to find a location that is the most cost effective for their company. The cheapest way out for Verizon is an existing structure eliminates major expenses in acquiring a lease, building a structure and site preparation. Verizon’s cheap way out should not come at the health and safety of the community. Verizon’s cheap way out should not come at the expense of diminished property values of hard working citizens.
We hope the Town of Chester Planning Board recognizes the negative impact to the community and deny Verizon’s request to locate cellular antennas on the Kings Estates Water Tower since Verizon has other alternative locations, away from residential housing, more suitable for their expansion.