Several residents and vocal parent groups, like Falls Church's Protect Schools and nationwide Parents Against Cell Towers (PACT), have argued there are other ways to find revenue besides putting cell towers on school campuses, where they believe radiation is emitted too close to their children.
Federal law prevents municipalities from blocking cell phone towers based on health concerns, even with the support of American or European studies that oppose the FCC position on the link between cell towers and cancer, planning commission member Frank de la Fe said at the hearing for the Madison tower.
Municipalities do hold cell towers to standards set by the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates how much frequency the poles can emit, de la Fe said. On its web site, the FCC says evidence linking radiation frequency and cancer are inconclusive.The existing poles in Fairfax County, along with the proposed poles, are a thousand times lower than that standard, Forkas said.
"That's the only standard we have, and we are significantly below threshold for safety," Forkas said.
A 2005 FCPS-led study supports that statement, though some opponents to the towers complain that the study doesn't list specific frequency amounts, and instead, only lists the number of times a pole's frequency is below the FCC standard.
But federal law can't stop cities and towns from banning towers in certain areas, or adopting measures to restrict them, and several governing boards across the country have done so. The Los Angeles Unified School District banned towers from school property almost a decade ago. The Town of Vienna, whose boundaries fall just short of the planned location for the Madison and Thoreau towers, limits cell towers to a handful of town-owned properties, the Virginia Power substation on Center Street North, existing utility towers along the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, and a small section of Maple Ave East, West Mill Street Northeast, and Dominion Road Northeast.
Last month, a town board in Hempstead, N.Y., banned wireless companies from constructing equipment within 1,500 feet of schools, homes, day care centers and places of worship.
The closest residence to the Madison tower is 231 feet. The closest building to the proposed tower at Thoreau, a church building on Amanda Place, is 36 feet, according to Milestone's application.
"When I hold a cell phone right against my head, that's significantly more dangerous than being exposed to these towers," Forkas said. "It's part of our life, part of our culture."