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Federal Decision Gives Hope to DeKalb Cell Tower Opponents

Before cell phone carriers tried schools, they were turned down at firestations. And, before they came to DeKalb, they tried Cobb. Read on to learn how it worked out for them...

Through our informal countywide group (Get the Cell Out - Atlanta) against the placement of cell phone towers (aka telecommunications towers) on school grounds, we have continued to ask questions and seek answers from our leaders. When we spoke with people outside of Georgia, we received a lot of support and encouragement to continue our mission to learn the truth. 

One particularly kind attorney who was waging her own war on the cell towers in Maryland reviewed our situation and spoke with another advocate for safe tower siting.  This friend happened to also be a former member of a zoning review board, so she knew what our zoning folks would likely be looking for when and if the applications for towers were ever presented to them.

She helped us locate an important case that went to the Supreme Court of Georgia, titled "MACON-BIBB COUNTY PLANNING and; ZONING COMMISSION et al. v. BIBB COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT." It shows that the property of a state governmental unit is exempt from local zoning when a governmental function is being performed but not when a proprietary function is being performed.

This information was key because it helped the county commissioners come together in DeKalb and write a letter to the CEO Burrell Ellis asking him to deny any tower applications from T-mobile or the school board that would seek to go around the authority and regulations of the county.  We have ordinances already on the books to protect us from industrial hazards by keeping these type of structures out of residentially zoned areas. 

If T-mobile applies for the proper permits, many of the school locations would not be allowed and their zoning and building permit requests would be denied. But, the commissioners did mention one thing in their letter that concerned us and that was something about "unless it is proven otherwise in a court of law," then they must uphold the ordinances of the county. 

We didn't have to look far to find the backup documentation they would need to answer their question.  In fact, it has been decided in a court of law, a federal court.  In our neighboring Cobb County, the court sided in favor of the county to uphold its zoning ordinances and deny a cell tower to T-mobile. So, we have again written to CEO Burrell Ellis.  Here is an exerpt from that letter...

"...  The federal case we would like you to reference is titled, "T-MOBILE LLC vs. COBB COUNTY, GEORGIA."

In this case, the County’s Planning and Zoning Staff reviewed the Application for compliance with the County’s local zoning ordinance. The Ordinance provides several design, location, and safety requirements for the construction of towers over 35 feet. Official Code of Cobb County, Georgia § 134-273. Based on the Ordinance, the county denied the application for a tower permit and T-Mobile sued.

The court found in favor of the county and proved that the county has every right to uphold its own zoning ordinances and was justified in denying the application based on the fact that the tower proposed would be an intrusion into a residential area.

We hope you and your staff will review the documents and take these court proceedings into consideration when making the final determination. We have received an outpouring of support for this mission to keep our school yards safe and free from the intrusion of cell phone towers on their grounds.

We have united our county on this issue, and groups that might normally be divided on other matters when it comes to schools and education, were able to come together, work together and seek help from their elected officials from the north to the south.

Now, we turn this final decision over to you, Mr. Ellis, and pray that you will do the right thing for the children of our county." To read our full letter, please visit our blog/website at http://www.getthecelloutatl.com/2012/04/dear-mr-burrell-ellis-ceo-we-are.html."

Remember to VOTE on July 31 for school board members in several districts.  All incumbants must go.  Nancy Jester and Donna Edler are the only ones who voted no to the cell towers in July 2011.

And URGENT:  Look out for the Telecommunications Tower Referendum Question on the ballot.  VOTE NO!  If you do not want to put our schools and neighborhoods at risk AND you are tired of helping fund the corruption, please spread the word - VOTE NO! 

"Telecommonunications Towers" is the name they are giving to cell towers in an attempt to mislead you.  Spead the word in your neighborhood about this question so your area does not accidentally approve a tower near you! This question does not belong on the ballot and was NOT supported by any of the groups who met with the state delegation in hopes of passing legislation this year. 

In fact, it was actually suggested by the same person who blocked our bill t ban the towers from going forward. It is asking you to approve something that is currently against our county's ordinances that were drafted by our county commissioners to protect your health and property!

To view the full details about this ballot question, go here.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Cheryl Miller May 04, 2012 at 05:55 PM
To view details on the above-referenced legal cases: Cobb County: Federal decision to uphold county's right to enforces its own ordinances: http://www.scribd.com/doc/89542470/Cobb-county-federal-decision-to-Uphold-tower-denial And... Macon-Bibb: The clairification that a school system is only exempt from local zoning laws when it is constructing a building that is for an educational/governemental purpose or for a public purpose, but NOT when it is for a proprietary purpose (for profit). http://www.scribd.com/doc/91213401/Macon-bibb-Decision
Jim Kinney May 07, 2012 at 09:33 PM
http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/AtHome/cellular-phone-towers www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2011/pdfs/pr208_E.pdf http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs193/en/ These make for interesting reading about the risk of exposure to cell phone radiation. Now as far as the money-making aspects of leasing school space go, I rank it in the same category as plastering ads all over buses and cars, it's visibility fades with time until it is purely background noise. I find it sad that our schools are so underfunded that they would be considering such ideas.
Cheryl Miller May 29, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Hey Jim... are you running for the school board? Glad to see you were checking into this issue. Please find more on our website at: www.GETtheCELLoutATL.org and you can "friend" us on Facebook. Are you willing to state your position as anti-cell towers on school grounds? If so, we will be happy to annouce it on our site!
Cheryl Miller June 04, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Under-funded? Really? So, you are in favor of higher taxes? Is $475 million in e-SPLOST dollars significant enough of a contribution for the next 5 years? Are you aware of how our money is being wasted by redundant staffing and attorney fees?

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