Can’t we all just get along?
NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) is a problem that site operators and owners have had to face from the beginning. It’s even happening in Washington, and everyone is getting involved, including Congress and a Hollywood actress. Except in this case, it is NIMP (not-in-my-park).
Rock Creek Park, a heavily wooded valley running through northwest Washington, is an island of nature in a town of monuments, subways and politicians. It is also an island without complete cellular coverage. So Bell Atlantic Mobile wants two new antenna towers in the park, a 100-foot monopole at the tennis center to replace an existing 38-foot tower and a 130-foot tower at the maintenance center.
Arguments against erecting the towers are that residents say the towers intrude on natural splendor (the term “eyesore” was used), and they are a health hazard. At a demonstration outside the U.S. Interior Department (DOI), actress Linda Evans said that the residents had a “right to say that they don’t want to be radiated 24-hours-a-day in that park.” (DOI has jurisdiction over capital park lands.)
Radiated? Towers aren’t ray guns (or sun lamps). The park service’s environmental assessment concluded that the towers posed “no significant environmental impact.” And beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
This is not only about NIMP. The situation is reminiscent of kindergarten fights over the ownership of toys. While Washington’s National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) voted on July 1 to further delay the siting of the two towers (after a five-year delay), the Senate was voting to override the NCPC.
The biggest disagreement is over who has what right. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) amended the DC budget bill to give the U.S. Park Service 90 days to approve the project, thus taking the decision away from the NCPC. He said that “people ought to have the right” to use cellular communications when in danger. Daschle cited the Telecommunications Act of 1996, saying that it “specifically requires that federal property be made available to services for wireless communication if those services are responsible and environmentally sound.” According to Daschle, 348 violent crimes occurred in the park in the past five years.
I understand the zoning concerns, but I’m also afraid of BANN (build-absolutely-nothing-nowhere). Quit haggling and compromise. If District leaders really looked at the evidence, they would see that radiation is not the problem. It’s more dangerous to stand in front of your microwave. Violent crime is a problem, though, and citizens should be able to call for help in this area.
The eyesore argument holds more weight, but that’s why companies such as Valmont/Microflect and Larson Group disguise towers (stealth technology). Maybe they could build an observation tower with antennas and charge $5 to look out over the park.