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Plans of AT&T Tower Draw Signals of Skepticism

North College Park residents question plans of 120-foot cell tower just north of Capital Beltway and east end of Odessa Road.

An attorney representing AT&T’s plans to plop a 120-foot cell tower in North College Park drew signals of skepticism among several residents whose homes are near the site.  

“Our goal is to get feedback from you,” said the attorney, Gregory Rapisarda, who presented the proposal at the North College Park Citizens Association meeting last night.

While three other tower sites had been tested by AT&T in the area, placing the tower along the east edge of Odessa Road and just north of the Capital Beltway would provide the most coverage, according to Rapisarda.

“We’ve got to fill this gap,” he said, pointing to a pictorial chart showing a white swath of dead-zone in AT&T’s wireless coverage.

“Why don’t you look in your own backyard?” said a half-serious Harley Elliott, whose home sits along the 5200 block of Palco Place. 

Others agreed, questioning the aesthetic value in a 120-foot tower, its impact on home values and peoples’ health.

While Rapisarda conceded that the tower may create an eyesore, he said it posed no risk to home values nor people’s health, according to studies and the FCC. 

Comprised of a 50-by-50-foot base, Rapisarda also said the tower would be “highly landscaped” and sit “over 200 feet” from the nearest resident’s home.

Yet Rapisarda’s assurances did little to quell skepticism, as some questioned how much the city would net from a deal.

According to Councilman Patrick Wojahn (Dist. 1), AT&T’s “initial offer” to the city was $1,200 per month, a point that drew guffaws from some, including Mr. Elliott.

“They (city leaders) sold us out for $1,200?”

As Wojahn noted more than once, the city is far from striking a deal with AT&T. Mayor Andrew Fellows agreed, thanking everyone for their input on AT&T’s proposal. 

According to Rapisarda, AT&T is about “six to eight months” away from engaging in the public-hearings process.

Still, residents wondered: “How does this benefit our neighborhood?”

A better wireless signal, said Rapisarda.

“Our reception here is just fine,” said one resident, while another doubled down: “I’ve got Verizon.” 

ksgarvin April 15, 2011 at 03:11 PM
I wish my neighbors would worry about noise as much as they seem to worry about aesthetics. This tower issue is all about money, isn't it -- how much money the government will get from AT&T?
ksgarvin April 15, 2011 at 03:16 PM
My previous comment got truncated. One issue I'd like to make about the tower is that it won't draw traffic through the neighborhood roads like some of the other recent construction around the city. I can't say I find the tower particularly offensive, although people will argue that it's not in my backyard since I'm over closer to Route 1. Unlike noise or traffic problems, you do have the option of not looking at a tower or building, especially if they do landscape it.
Barbara Elliott April 15, 2011 at 09:24 PM
The 125 foot tower does not belong in our backyards. I really do not know of anyone who wishes to have this eyesore and potential health risk in THEIR neigborhood. The tower would come with a gravel road fit for a trailer park. WOW!!!we have an option of not looking at a 125 foot tower, some of us from our windows every single day, WHAT AN OPTION!!!
PH April 16, 2011 at 05:36 PM
I live on the corner of Odessa Rd, I don't need a 125ft tower right on edge of my property and my cell phone works just fine!
DAD April 18, 2011 at 01:17 PM
Rather than a new tower AT&T should approach the Maryland State Police and see if a lease agreement can't be worked out for space on their tower just outside the Beltway.
ksgarvin April 18, 2011 at 02:09 PM
DAD, that sounds like a good compromise.
Jon Aerts April 18, 2011 at 05:11 PM
That option was addressed by Mr. Rapisarda, who said the location was tested and found to be unsuitable in terms of adequately filling gaps in AT&T's coverage. What's more, he indicated that the station currently has a moratorium in place on the use of its tower.
Lisa Drevo April 19, 2011 at 12:15 AM
How much the government will get from AT&T is a drop in the bucket compared to the money we will loose from the value of our homes! I will see the tower while sitting on my back porch! Not a sight I am looking forward to. We have worked hard to improve the appearance of our home. For what! We'll see who moves in after I move out! Thank you College Park for taking us into consideration
Joe April 19, 2011 at 11:47 AM
I wonder what has a larger effect on property values - a cell phone tower in the vicinity, or living that close to the beltway?
james May 03, 2011 at 09:06 PM
What if AT&T gave you the ability to use their services for free for a year if they put this tower in ? Or free internet access/tv/voice for a year?
Jon Gulbuny May 04, 2011 at 12:47 AM
"is a drop in the bucket compared to the money we will loose from the value of our homes! " Funny, cause your house prices have already dropped and will drop more with no investors paying premium anymore. But yea, goooo rent control!
Barbara Elliott May 06, 2011 at 11:20 AM
Funny, the value of our homes have gone down, but our property taxes have not! Now College Park wants to sell us out for revenue from leasing to AT&T.
Joe May 06, 2011 at 11:37 AM
so you should appeal your tax assessment at the county tax assessor's office. I did and knocked about 20% off my taxes. The county reassesses on a rotating schedule, so your property might not have undergone this "automatic reassessment" in a few years.
Barbara Elliott May 06, 2011 at 11:56 AM
Thanks so much Joe, I did do that with some success and have encouraged others to do so, especially those in dire circumstances. I still feel it is disgraceful how residents are being overtaxed, and now intruded upon by a cell phone tower.
Robert Catlin May 06, 2011 at 08:39 PM
In reaction to higher property assessments, the City slashed the amount of increase from higher assessments of owner-occupied properties from a state permitted maaximum of 10% to just 1% for years 2005, 2006 and 2007. For years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 the increase was set at 4%. Also in 2009 the City piggybacked on the State's Homeowner's Property Tax Credit program which can significnatly reduce property tax for homeowner's of limited income. As a result about 200 City residents each year now get an average of about $200 reduction in City taxes. For reference City residents pay real property taxes of about $500-$600 per home.
Jon Gulbuny May 06, 2011 at 10:15 PM
What was the reasoning for a 400% increase in taxes from 2007 to 2008?
Robert Catlin May 07, 2011 at 12:25 AM
Going from a 1% increase to a 4% increase is an increasee of 3%, not 400%. Otherwise an increase from 0% to 1% would mean that taxes increase by an infinite amount.
Jon Gulbuny May 08, 2011 at 03:35 AM
What was the reasoning for a 300% increase in taxes from 2007 to 2008?
Jon Gulbuny May 09, 2011 at 12:24 AM
Bob - can you answer the question? You were very quick to respond the difference between the "increase" in percentage. While we are at it mr. economist - google "do economist like myself favor rent control" You will get 89% of ALL economist say rent control screws the city. It really makes me wonder why you as an economist would be for it if you weren't being paid by someone. Right?
Robert Catlin May 09, 2011 at 11:23 AM
The Homestead went from 1% to 4% for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons was that new assessments in January 2004 for 80% of College Park (the rest of the City is on a cycle that begins the following year) showed valuations that averaged 30% higher than the 2001 valuations. However, it was to late to change the Homestead for that year (State policy requires changes need to occur almost a year in advance) so residents received a 10% increasse in 2005. Reduction to 1% meant that over the three-year period when assessments could have increasd by 30% they increased by 12%, or an average of 4% a year. In 2007 new assessments reflected a 70% increase, so instead of taxes increasing by the maximum allowable of 30% (over 2007-2009) they increased by 9% (1%-2007, 4%-2008, and 4%-2009).
Jon Gulbuny May 10, 2011 at 11:16 PM
Just because assessments grew at an enormous rate doesn't mean the city should spend that money. Were there extra services that demanded this extra tax? It would seem like the same number of people would be using the same services so why the extra tax? We need to control gov spending. I'm not saying no taxes but just because you can collect millions of dollars and waste it on your own pet projects doesn't mean its the right thing to do. But I'm sure you will just send a letter to all of the residents and tell them why they should vote not to control gov tax increases. Wait, you already did.

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