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Steeple Cell Phone Antennas Recommended for Approval

by ARLnow.com June 6, 2011 at 9:53 am 4,904 17 Comments

County staff is recommending that the County Board approve AT&T’s request to put new cell phone antennas in a pair of North Arlington church steeples.

Last month the company went before the board to request permission to replace older antennas and equipment at 15 existing cell sites around the county. The equipment will allow AT&T to offer high speed ‘Long Term Evolution’ (LTE) data service to cell phone customers in Arlington. The board approved the replacement at 13 of the sites, but withdrew two for further consideration after a number of neighbors voiced opposition.

The two sites in question are both churches: the Westover Baptist Church (1125 Patrick Henry Drive) and Walker Chapel United Methodist Church (4102 N. Old Glebe Road). AT&T already has cell phone antennas in the steeples of both churches, but neighbors objected to what they saw as the possible health risks of the new antennas. Those opposing antennas at Walker Chapel also cited the historic nature of the 140-year-old church, even though the building itself is just over 50 years old.

Ultimately, county staff sided with AT&T, which argued that the new antennas will not be substantially heavier than the existing antennas — thus posing no anticipated structural problems — and will remain compliant with FCC regulations regarding radio frequency exposure.

“AT&T will contribute less than five percent of the maximum permissible exposure allowed,” staff wrote in the board report. The company agreed to annual, independent electromagnetic emission tests at all 15 sites to ensure compliance.

Last week’s revelation that the World Health Organization now considers cell phone use to be “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” however, will likely only serve to increase the resolve of antenna opponents. Even if the County Board wanted to decide the matter on the basis of health concerns, however, it is legally prohibited from doing so. According to the board report, federal law “prohibits localities from basing decisions on the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions if the facility complies with FCC regulations.”

The board is scheduled to consider the cell antenna requests on Saturday.

  • TGEoA

    West over Baptist Church?

    What an unfortunate name for them

  • Stu Pendus

    Ah of course! I read the zoning announcement posted on a nearby telephone pole the other day and could not figure out where they wanted to build a “switching station” on that property. Should have realized it was for antennas.

    • Westover

      Yeah, the zoning letter could not have been more vague. It took me a little bit to realize that it was even talking about the church property, and no mention that it was to replace the antennas.

  • John Fontain

    Churches with cell phone towers, churches with condo buildings. At what point do these entities go from being churches funded by business operations to business operations taking the form of churches?

    • doodly

      The IRS can tell you.

  • God

    Can you hear me now ? …

    • Pinko Commie

      Dear Almighty,

      Try twitter.

  • MyHood


  • Resident

    Since I haven’t had cell phone service in Arlington (AT&T) for about a week and a half, I’m in favor of anything to bring back my signal. Looks like this is a widespread problem in the area, according to AT&T.

  • SoCo Resident

    Health Effects would never be addressed by a church. For a coummunity so into healthy eating, exercise, etc., it seems to totally ignore possible causes of cancer in its midst. Will walk miles for “The Cure” but never question public officials!

    • doodly

      Are cell towers a source of danger, or just using a cellphone an inch from your brain?

  • Wildhair

    Our Lady of AT&T.

    • Pinko Commie

      blessed be the greenback.

  • LyonSteve

    They should put a cell tower or two in the “Church” steeple at The Views of Clarendon.

  • YTK

    As long as its in the shape of a cross, who’s gonna know???

    • Pinko Commie


  • Stu Pendus

    So after thinking about this and reading the staff report I have to ask: under what auspices could the county reject this request, assuming the renovations meet current building codes?


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