Elrich Urges Council to Take Pause on Cell Tower Regulations

County Executive Marc Elrich has asked the Montgomery County Council to pause its consideration of new regulations that decide how 5G antennas would be placed in residential areas.

Elrich noted court cases in which the antennas’ “small cell towers” are not exempt from environmental and historic preservation rules.

Debbie Spielberg, a special assistant to Elrich, delivered the request Tuesday night at a council hearing on the regulations.

In her testimony at the hearing, Spielberg said Elrich wants to improve the administrative effectiveness of antenna approvals.

The hearing lasted about two hours. The council is expected to take up the regulations at its Jan. 23, 2020, meeting.

The regulations would allow telecommunications towers as a limited or conditional use in some residential areas.

Some residents have objected to the regulations because they would allow poles too close to their homes. Proponents have said the new towers and antennas are needed for the next generation of wireless services.

Here’s the full testimony:

Here are some highlights:

“Council was told last year that it was urgent to pass ZTA 18-02 to enable the towers in the dense commercial zones, which would have the highest demand. But in the year and a half since passage of 18-02 only one small cell node was placed in all of our business districts in Silver Spring, Bethesda, Wheaton and White Flint. Just one.”

— Harriet Quinn, Montgomery County Civic Federation (Opposed)

“Consider this, at AT&T alone data usage on our network had increased by more than 470,000 percent since 2007. That’s AT&T alone. That said I’m sure most people in this room even have cell phones and many devices to their name. Here in Montgomery County and this Baltimore-Washington region we know something about traffic congestion. But imagine what steps … would be needed to reduce congestion if road traffic alone in the county increased by 470,000 percent in 12 years. We’ve got to do something.”

— LaTara Harris, Regional Director for External Affairs for AT&T in Maryland (For)

“I am here to humbly request you to support ZTA 19-07 because there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that the presence of a few carefully regulated boxes on pre-existing streetlights and electrical poles is a tiny, tiny price to pay to remain the leading county in this country to live, work, and study.”

— Roopesh Ojha, Radio Astronomer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (For)

“These towers would emit radio-frequency radiation into our yards, our homes, and our bodies 24 hours a day, seven days a week … I am opposed because of a massive scientific study by the National Institutes of Health National Toxicology program, showing that cell phone radiation at the levels of the 5G cell towers that are intended to be deployed in our yards have been shown to cause increased gliomas/brain cancers and schwannomas of the heart.”

— Katherine Katzin, Elementary School Teacher (Opposed)

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