Key West Residents Express Concerns About Proposed Cell Tower

August 19, 2013

AT&T's plan to construct a cell tower in Albemarle County's Key West neighborhood is receiving some backlash from residents. The project, first proposed in 2009, is moving forward, but some residents are trying to convince AT&T to move it to another location.

More than 100 people showed up to an informational meeting Monday hosted by a representative for the wireless company. Valerie Long, an attorney working for the cell phone carrier, outlined the company's plan to construct a wireless facility off of Key West Drive.

Some residents say they worry the addition will be an eyesore. Long says the idea is to create very little visual impact.

The tower would follow Albemarle County's cell tower standards, which Long called "one of the most stringent policies in the country." The tower, which would be brown, would not be much taller than the existing tree line.

"The goal is to have these facilities blend in as much as possible," said Long.

Another major concern brought forth by Key West residents is the potential future health impacts of living near a cell tower.

Amy Eichenberger moved to the Key West neighborhood after residing in another area near a cell tower. She says the tower was installed a year or two before she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a plasma cell cancer.

"I'm 47 years old, I'm a mother of two, and I don't know how long I have to live," said Eichenberger.

Her former neighbor, who was also diagnosed with cancer after the tower was installed, has less than a year to live.

Now, Eichenberger wonders if living near the cell tower had potentially deadly and lasting effects. She is encouraging AT&T to look elsewhere for its home.

Some AT&T customers in the crowd questioned the need for a tower because they say their service is just fine. But Long says the demand is there.

"I can assure you AT&T and other carriers would not be going to the expense and the time to provide these facilities if they did not have a need for them," said Long.

Long told the Key West residents that living near a cell tower is not as uncommon as they may think.

"We all live near wireless facilities. If you go to a football game at Scott Stadium, if you get your health care at UVa Medical Center," said Long.

But many who see this as a threat to their backyards say there must be additional options.

"Certainly there are other choices for AT&T. It's not as if this is the one place in the eastern part of the county where this tower can go," said Key West resident Robert Toplin.

Eichenberger passed around a petition Monday to get all the all the residents opposed to the proposed tower on the same page.

"Nobody wants anything in their backyard. We understand that. We're not trying to be unreasonable, but this is a precedent," she said. "I do ask everyone in Albemarle County, if they would be willing to have a large cell tower in the middle of their neighborhood. How would you feel about it?"

The proposed cell tower would bring better service to the Key West, Dunlora and Belvedere neighborhoods.

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