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Berkeley Lake residents protest construction of cell phone tower

BERKELEY LAKE - A group of activists is forming in the city of Berkeley Lake to protest the possible construction of a cell phone tower on city-owned property. While city officials have been approached by at least two companies seeking to locate a tower within city limits, there are currently no plans on the city's part to enter into a deal.

The grassroots group, headed by Berkeley Lake resident Bill Hunkapiller, plans to launch opposition to a cell tower deal the city may consider now or in the future.

"We live three doors down from City Hall," Hunkapiller said. "The city has other space that can be used as an option, but they seem pretty adamant about putting it at City Hall."

His wife, Melanie, expressed her concern about the safety of cell towers near residences.

"Fifty years ago, the government said that smoking was safe. We only have about 1,000 people in our city," she said. "If the tower can't be located in the greenspace or somewhere else suitable, then we don't need one."

The Hunkapillers said they have not spoken with anyone in the city who supports locating a cell tower in the city.

"I plan to circulate a petition soon," Bill Hunkapiller said. "Our primary concerns here are health and property values."

City administrator Tom Rozier said during last week's city council meeting that he wanted to take time to research the matter thoroughly before the May council meeting. Based on Rozier's comment, council members voted to table the second reading of an ordinance regulating cell towers in the city until the May 21 council meeting.

"Council's actions so far have been directed to the creation of an ordinance that would provide some controls on cell towers in advance of any consideration of requests for placement," Mayor Lois Salter said. "I think everyone has agreed that such an ordinance is a good idea since it doesn't obligate us to have a tower, just provides some protective limitations and controls if we ever should have them."

The mayor acknowledges there are pros and cons that will be discussed at future meetings.

"As for locations, should we decide to have a tower, we would need to hear from the companies seeking to erect one as to where their engineering data showed a need for a new tower to improve service," she said.