Communities around two schools say they were not properly notified before DeKalb County Schools voted to allow the placement of cell towers on school property.
Residents in the Briarlake and Briacliff Heights areas say they were not notified of a proposal earlier this year to place T-Mobile cell towers at 12 schools, including Briarlake Elementary and Margaret Harris Comprehensive School.
The list was eventually whittled down to nine schools. After holding public input sessions, the school board decided to remove Meadowview, Medlock and Brockett elementary schools from the list.
“I’m angry because this board has voted to erect cell phone towers at certain DeKalb schools without properly notifying the members of the community, including Margaret Harris [School],” Joe Stanley said. Stanley made his comments at a recent board of education meeting on Dec. 6, and was joined by nearly 30 others, all wearing red shirts, who were against the towers. As Stanley continued to address the board, each person in red stood in solidarity.
“I’ve spoken to many of you and heard the board’s repeat assertions that you did, ‘everything possible to notify parents, residents and surrounding communities of the proposal to erect these towers.’ However, I don’t think that statement is true,” Stanley said.
Walter Woods, a spokesman for the school system, said ample opportunity for public comment was given and the board of education’s vote on July 11 reflected that.
“This was discussed widely at many public meetings and we had them at all 12 of the proposed sites. That’s why we removed some of the schools from the list,” Woods said.
However, some residents such as Lauren Staley and Richard Marion said their communities were willing to do everything possible to stop the placement of cell towers in their neighborhoods.
Staley is an attorney who lives behind Margaret Harris school in Briarcliff Heights. She read from Section 27-779 of a DeKalb County Zoning Ordinance at the meeting, which said, “Further, allowing new towers in residential areas [is acceptable] only if a comparable site is not available in a non-residential area.” Staley accused the board of not properly paying attention to the ordinance while making its decision.
“I urge you who voted a yes in support of this plan to put cell phone towers on school property to reconsider your vote, desist from any further plans to put a tower specifically at Margaret Harris [School] or any of the DeKalb County schools,” Staley said, threatening “legal action” if they did not.
Marion echoed Staley and said there was no transparency with the vote and everything the board did was “without community input.” Marion, who belongs to a new organization, No Briarlake Tower LLC., said Briarlake Elementary is a magnet school for the hearing impaired and research his group has done shows cell towers can have an effect on hearing aids.
“Briarlake is a magnet school for the hearing impaired and why that was never discussed among the board members is puzzling and baffling,” Marion said. “We’ve done a lot of work and the BOE has stonewalled us.”
Marion said his community was still trying to figure out what its next step was but they would exhaust every resource possible, including taking legal action.
However, according to Woods there has been no talk about revisiting the vote or removing any of the locations.
“There’s been no discussion that the board would go back and look at it,” Woods said.