PlanningC-sept

Asking the wrong questions gets only wrong answers. Not surprising then that the most recent marathon meeting of the Planning Commission was spent in interminable answers about height restrictions, lattice vs. monopole, painting colors, megahertz levels, set-backs, balloons, waivers and other mind numbing, migraine inducing details. These details provide the cell tower advocates the means to tie up, use up, clutter up, and screw up the conversation so that the forest is always lost for the trees. Opposition is simply worn down by this catalogue of distractions. The message: accept your fate; it’s inevitable.

The basic question however, is not between cell towers and the connectivity they provide vs. no connectivity. That’s the question the cell tower companies and their advocates in the county want us to accept. But that’s a question based on a false premise; that cell towers provide the only solution. The questions we should be asking are these: What’s the best way, the least obtrusive way, the safest way and the most enduring way to provide connectivity to the county?

Most of the opposition to these cell towers doesn’t arise from folks who oppose connectivity. (Although some do). It arises from residents who justifiably and passionately seek to protect the unique rural character and spectacular view sheds of the county. So why are we pitting neighbor against neighbor (once again) in this needless, recurring unpleasantness when sensible, non-controversial alternatives to cell towers are now available? 

Listening to the comments of my fellow citizens I found myself in agreement with nearly everyone on both sides of the issue. Who cannot sympathize with the lady who spoke of her husband lying on the floor for hours, unable to call for help? Who cannot sympathize with the homeowner who will have to stare at an industrial scale cell tower looming over her property? So the question I have for the members of the planning board, as well as the county supervisors, is this… Why are you guys putting us through this? 

Cell towers are ugly as sin. They are a blight on the landscape, an eye-sore, an affront to every person who’s chosen Rappahannock as their home. The radiation they emit is hazardous to our families’ health. As expected, just like the tobacco companies (cancer), the car companies (seat-belts), the petro-chemical companies (DDT), the pharmaceutical companies (opioids), the cellular companies continue to deny the extensively documented risks to human health. Increasingly however, these denials ring hollow. 

Our representatives at the Planning Commission and county supervisors have a primary responsibility to protect us from hazards to our health, safety and wellbeing. Such considerations should take precedence over convenience or parochial business interests. So, even if cell tower technology was the only game in town such considerations would have to be weighed. The good news however, is that there are viable alternatives for fast, reliable connectivity.

Major telecommunications companies are well on the way to providing fiber optic connectivity all across the nation. We know this service is already coming to Rappahannock County. If we are interested in hastening the transition from the old, contentious, covered-wagon technology of radiation cell towers to the new up-to-date technology of fiber optics, this can be readily accomplished by an all-in commitment by the county. Which means — no more cell tower approvals. This will incentivize the telecom companies to accelerate their plans to provide fiber optic to the county. Any new approvals for cell tower construction will only slow this process down. Let’s have the law of supply and demand work in our favor — not against us.

Let’s put an end to this bickering and accept with open arms the solution that is staring us in the face. No more cell towers. And once the fiber optic system is up and running all across the county, we can start to work on removing the hideous cell towers already installed. That’s something that can unite us. Not divide us. 

The writer lives in Flint Hill.

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