Letter: Tower at school — give it an F

As a parent with young children about to enter Rappahannock schools, I’m deeply concerned that our planning commission has approved the proposed 199-foot cell tower less than 100 feet from the high school. It is also very troubling that the school board would agree to lease its land to AT&T to build a tower that is both dangerous and ugly. The county’s comprehensive plan requires our supervisors to take both aesthetics and public safety into account when deciding whether or not to approve this application. We need to clearly think through the potential impact of the proposed tower.

Erecting this tower unnecessarily places students, faculty, staff and visitors in peril, not to mention school facilities. Cell towers can and do collapse; debris can and does fall from cell towers. (Look on YouTube for some interesting videos of cell towers collapsing if you think it’s not possible.) Our county does have cases of extreme weather, including hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms, hail and severe thunderstorms, and they come from all directions.

In addition, if placed so close to the school, the tower would attract vandals and daredevils. Even though, as Ben Jones pointed out last week in this paper, supervisors are not allowed to consider the proven harmful effects of electromagnetic waves on our students and staff, they can and should consider the potential physical danger to our children and their caretakers.

This tower also would be just plain ugly. The visual impact of such a placement directly opposes our mandate to mitigate visual impact to residents. I can only imagine what it would be like to be a teenager bused every day into its shadow. It doesn’t seem like our county places a value on the scenic character of our countryside or the aesthetic sensitivities of its youth.

The county’s annual income from the tower isn’t worth the liability. If this tower goes up as planned, parents like us will seriously consider withdrawing their children from the public schools at the high school level. This would decrease the school’s enrollment and therefore state funding. You can bet that many parents’ decisions will be informed by current research on the health effects of the type of electromagnetic waves emitted from the tower. I believe that the tower would end up being a financial liability rather than a benefit.

I’m sure we can have excellent cell phone coverage in our county without it. Stopping the rush to approval can only yield a better proposal in the future. Has AT&T looked at any sites on the north side of U.S. 211, nestled in the mountainside, or other area properties that are a safe distance away from the school?

I urge our supervisors to exercise their civic duty by voting against the proposed cell tower at the high school. The school board can and should revisit and reject its decision to use school property as the site of a cell tower.

Rachel Bynum

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