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Council delays cellular vote

October 16, 2004

Deirdre Newman

Cingular may fit you best, as its slogan promises, but its antennas

aren't yet fitting into the city-owned property of Superior Avenue

and West Coast Highway.

For the second time, West Newport residents' concerns about having

Cingular's wireless antennas in their sights delayed a definitive

City Council decision on allowing the antennas. The postponement also

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affects Sprint's plans, since it wants to mount antennas at the same

location.

The City Council this week voted to postpone consideration of the

antennas until Nov. 9. The council asked representatives of Cingular

and Sprint to revise their plans and also encouraged them to explore

other locations.

The postponement was another victory for residents in the area,

including many who live in the Villa Versailles and Villa Balboa

condominiums. In May, opponents derailed a plan by Cingular to

install a 50-foot flagpole as a site for its cellular antenna.

This time, even with a height reduction from 50 to a maximum of 35

feet and a switch from a flagpole to streetlights for mounting the

antennas, opponents were not assuaged. They are concerned about the

antennas blocking their views, the radiation the antennas emit and

how altering the height of the light poles will affect the lighting

on the street.

"This is a classic paradox of Not In My Front Yard," said Ed

Sherman, who lives at Villa Balboa. "Put [them] somewhere in a public

building that's not in my front yard. Put it across the street on the

other side [of the property]. There's got to be other viable

alternatives. There are 700 units [at Villa Balboa] that are

taxpayers. Listen to us."

The council is considering the antennas only because the cell

phone companies want to mount them on city-owned property. In

September 2002, the council approved a policy allowing the city to

rent space on its property and facilities for cellular antennas. A

month later, it approved a law governing installation of the antennas

for both city- and privately owned commercial property. Cellular

antennas are not allowed on residential property, according to the

city's law.

While some residents have fears about the radiation levels emitted

by the antennas, the council is not allowed to make its decision

based on health concerns. All that matters is that the wireless

companies and their equipment meet federal health guidelines.

Cingular and Sprint are interested in this location for their

antennas to enhance the strength of their existing signals and

network capacities in the area.

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