In a move likely to frustrate some local residents, Oakdale City Council members will not be discussing a lease agreement for the installation of a 70-foot cell phone tower at their Jan. 17 meeting as previously anticipated. The discussion was pushed to a later meeting, officials said, because of the longer than normal agenda for Jan. 17.
“There will be a lot on this agenda but the cell phone tower will not be discussed,” said Oakdale City Clerk Nancy Lilly.
The lease agreement would be between the City of Oakdale and AT&T for the use of land near the Oakdale Senior Center for the construction of a 70-foot cell phone tower. Several public workshops have been held to discuss the tower, but many area residents would like to see the tower built somewhere else, citing a variety of health and environmental concerns.
AT&T proposes to install antennae concealed in a faux 1850s water tower on city owned land at North Yosemite Avenue and East A Street near the southern end of Cottle’s Trail and the Senior Center. The location is also yards from Del-Tech Geotechnical Support Services offices, owned by Don Light. Seniors, residents and Light have all attended workshops held by At&T to voice their concerns.
“My children and I will be exposed to this microwave radiation constantly from a distance of less than 100 feet,” Light said.
Danelle Stylos, Director of Planning for the City of Oakdale, said that the new cell phone tower project started almost a year ago with a two-part process. The first part of the process, design review, has already been completed. Stylos said that AT&T has to meet Federal Communication Commission regulations for safety and other standards. The site design review has been completed, and the next step is the plan going to the city council for approval of the lease agreement.
“Only the lease agreement has to be approved by city council. If this project were on private property they could just go through a design review without any public meetings,” Stylos said.
AT&T has hosted two public workshops to answer questions about the proposed cell tower. At the April 12 meeting, several area senior citizens expressed concern about the tower’s possible effects on the surrounding residential community and complained they had not been informed in advance of the communication company’s plans.
Many attendees said the project “came out of the blue” and they were hoping for answers and facts. The meeting was attended by about 30 people, including Oakdale Mayor Pat Paul.
Some seniors appeared worried not so much about the looks of the tower as the potential, long range, deleterious effects of its radio waves on neighbors’ health and a possible increase in incidents of cancer. One claimed there is evidence a cell phone left on a nightstand within five feet of a person sleeping can have a damaging effect.
“The FCC is using very broad-based guidelines for the safety of these towers and nobody will guarantee me that it is safe to work so close to this thing,” Light added.
Light is also concerned that once the tower is built it can increase the strength of its signal or add multiple additional antennae without any oversight. He also voiced his belief that the public was not properly notified of the new cell tower project, and that the two meetings held with AT&T representatives were not properly noticed to the public.
“These meetings were held as a courtesy to the neighborhood. We did our best to notify people we thought might be interested in the project, but we were not obligated to post an agenda,” Stylos said.
Lilly said that the lease agreement would be discussed at an upcoming Oakdale City Council meeting, and residents can check council meeting agendas on the Thursday before the meeting at City Hall and online at the City of Oakdale website to see when it will be up for consideration.