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Vote tabled on cell tower approval

The Charlotte County Board of Supervisors (BOS) tabled a vote to approve a conditional use permit (CUP) application by U.S. Cellular for the construction of a 5G cellphone tower during its June 8 meeting because one homeowner did not have her concerns expressed to the BOS or planning commission.

A joint public hearing between the BOS and planning commission was held May 28 to hear public comments regarding the CUP. However, no one spoke.

During the June 8 meeting, Eleanor Cox addressed the BOS in person, informing them that she left a voicemail that she thought would be read during the May 28 public hearing.

That voicemail was not received. County Administrator Dan Witt said during the June 8 meeting that they had no record of the voicemail and no idea what happened.

The Cox family also submitted an email to the administration office dated June 6, stating her objection to the cell tower slated to be located on property owned by Blue Rock Resource located on Mapleton Road in the Madisonville area.

“My family recently purchased property adjacent to Blue Rock LLC’s land where U.S. Cellular intends on building their tower. We moved here with the intent to start a family and farm and contribute to the community in a clean, healthy, rural environment,” the email stated. “Prior to purchasing our home, we did our due diligence, knowing Kyanite Mining, or Blue Rock LLC owned the land behind our property and contacted a representative from said company to find out if the land was slated for use. We were assured that it wasn’t. After being notified of this proposed cell tower via mail, only eight days before this council was set to hold a public hearing during the COVID-19 outbreak, where people are not allowed to gather publicly in groups of more than 10 people.”

Cox said they contacted U.S. Cellular to get some information on a more precise outline of the location of their proposed tower and were told this was proprietary information that could not be released to the public.”

During her address to the BOS, Cox spoke of other states and countries not allowing 5G technology until a further study on the potentially harmful side effects it could cause is performed. She mentioned concerns about cancer.

“Hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies from around the world have linked non-ionizing forms of electromagnetic radiation to health risks such as cancer, DNA damage (especially in infants and fetuses), and infertility,” Cox said. “The U.S. Brain Tumor Association says the higher the frequency the more dangerous the radiation. Three and 4G technologies operate within the spectrum of 1 to 6 GHz frequencies. Five- or 5G-compatible cell towers emit frequencies as high as 300 GHz.”

Emilee Lauer, with Old Dominion Professional Services Site Acquisition, made the following statement to the BOS.

“Currently there are no associated health side effects due to the construction of wireless facilities. U.S. Cellular is provided very heavy guidelines from the government and environmental agencies to ensure there are no hazards to surrounding humans, animals or land. It has been determined that the most severe radiation directly to humans comes from microwaves used in kitchens and other small electronic devices. If someone were to climb a cell tower and stand directly in front of an on-air antenna without an RF device, then yes, that could be hazardous to your health.”

After hearing concerns, Wylliesburg/Red Oak Supervisor Kay Pierantoni said she was concerned that a homeowner had only eight days to respond and was even more concerned that Cox had called in and that neither the BOS nor planning commission heard her comments during the public hearing.

“I don’t think eight days is a short amount of time. If I am concerned about something, I’ll contact you the next day,” Vice Chairman Gary Walker said.

The planning commission will now review Cox’s concerns before the BOS makes a final vote on the CUP for U.S. Cellular.

U.S. Cellular applied for the CUP in January, and a public hearing was originally set for April but was not held due to the COVID-19 pandemic and office closures.

According to the CUP application, if approved, the tower is to be fully operational within two years of approval.