About 100 neighbors and nearby residents piled into a room in the United Trinity Methodist Church on Wednesday night for a city-mandated community meeting to discuss a proposed Verizon cell tower facility.
The gathering came after the planning and zoning commission postponed its decision on the tower after discovering the project never received a community meeting.
The Federal Communications Commission controls the ways in which municipalities can regulate cell towers. Among those regulations are that municipalities cannot take concerns over the health effects of radio frequencies into account when making a determination.
Nonetheless, much of the meeting was taken up with the issue of health concerns over the radio waves emitted by the service tower.
Michelle Lamoureux, with Pinnacle Consulting Inc., said they still want to address the issue as the health effects of towers are a concern to many residents.
The health impact of radio waves emitted by the tower lessen drastically the farther one gets from them, and they are already about 50 times lower than could be harmful per FCC regulations, said Steve Kennedy, a radio frequency engineer working on behalf of Verizon.
Kennedy added the World Health Organization ranks the radiation emitted by cell phones and the towers that serve them in the same category as coffee, with both designated as "possibly carcinogenic to humans."
Many residents were not so convinced, however, and the vast majority of those who attended voiced their opposition to the tower, while many remained worried about negative health outcomes due to the tower's construction.
Some attendees alluded to the fact that the current guidelines for health that the FCC uses to regulate towers were drawn up in the 1990s. Others pointed to more recent studies that suggest a stronger link between the radio waves emitted by cell towers and negative health effects.
The community meeting was preceded the night before by another meeting on the cell tower devoted to parishioners of the United Trinity Methodist Church.
Of the families that attend the church, Reverend Lynn Bartlow said about 10 live in the neighborhood and attended the meeting.
In all, Bartlow said about 26 people from the church attended the meeting, with a number of residents who are not members of the church also in attendance.
During that meeting, the majority of comments made about the project were positive, with most criticism coming from the non-church members who attended, according to those who either oppose or support the tower.
Invitations to the first meeting were also sent out to the parents of children who attend preschool at the church, but Bartlow said none of the parents came. The reverend speculated their apparent lack of interest could be because most of their children will no longer be attending preschool at the church when the tower goes up, should it be approved.