Neighbors say no to cell tower at Rockville school -- Gazette.Net


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Some neighbors of Julius West Middle School in Rockville want to end any possibility of a cellphone tower being installed on school property.

A community group, Citizens Against a Cell Tower at Julius West Middle School, has started an online petition that requests “a permanent ban” on cellphone towers and is addressed to Superintendent Joshua P. Starr and Montgomery County Board of Education members.

As of Tuesday, the petition had 35 signatures, with some signers mentioning concerns related to health effects and property values.

Most of the dozen or so group members calling for the ban hail from the Rose Hills Falls community.

They and others opposed a plan to place a tower at the school in 2007. That plan fell through.

Now, some group members say, signs point to another possible proposal and they want to see the issue decided for good.

Vincent Mickens — president of Julius West’s parent, teacher and student association — said that a couple of Verizon representatives met with parents at an association meeting in October to share their interest in placing a cellphone tower at the school and what study they had done on the idea.

The general consensus from the attending parents was that it was OK to continue exploring the issue, Mickens said.

Following that meeting, he said, he heard Verizon had undergone staff changes but would approach the school again in the future.

Brian Edwards, a spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools, said the school system has not received an application for a tower and “there are no plans to move forward with a cell tower at Julius West.”

“The issue was explored and there was a parent meeting and the parents made it clear they didn’t want it to proceed,” he said in an email.

Mickens said that, including both the parents at the October meeting and others he has spoken to, he doesn’t see a majority of parents leaning in one direction.

“I would say it’s pretty split right now,” he said.

Marylou Berg, a Rockville city spokeswoman, said that, to start the process for installing such a tower, the school system would need to submit a special exception application to the city.

The city has not received a formal application, she said, but has heard there is “something in the works.”

“We’re sort of expecting that [application] to come,” she said.

AT&T recently requested to place a cellphone tower at nearby Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, which was shot down after strong opposition from community members who voiced similar concerns related to health and property values.

Nadia Azumi, the leader of Citizens Against a Cell Tower at Julius West Middle School, said she and other group members collected more than 300 signatures opposing a cell tower when a proposal for one first appeared years ago from T-Mobile.

While about seven years have passed since the last proposal, she said it’s the same group that stands opposed.

“Things haven’t changed here,” she said.

David Keaton, another group member, said the group is seeking a ban out of concern that the issue could keep resurfacing.

“We felt like in 2006 and 2007 that we definitively voiced community opposition and made it clear that our community did not want this cell tower,” he said.

He said the group sent a letter to Starr and the school board around mid-July.

Keaton said his concerns for both nearby community members and those at the school include health effects from radiation.

“It just seems like there’s so many reasons why it just doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Azumi said she wants to see community members involved in any meetings related to a cell tower plan, including PTSA meetings.

Unlike the neighborhood residents, Azumi said, parents, students and staff at the school “come and go.”

“It’s us who remain,” she said.

lpowers@gazette.net