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Science has not found cell towers to be a threat to the health of children.
The American Cancer Society states there is no proven link between cell towers and cancer. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics says more extensive studies are needed to fully understand potential risks to children.
For many people, churches and their spires are a symbol of faith and protection for members of their congregation.
But for Andrea Guajardo, a parent of a student at Kendrick Lakes Elementary School and member of the St. Jude’s parish, 9405 W. Florida Ave., a new project on the church’s property — a 60-foot cellphone tower used by Verizon — is making her feel anything but protected.
“Evidently this project has been in the works for a while, but we never heard anything about it until work had already began,” Guajardo said. “Why was there no public meeting? This tower is right near our kids, and residents had no chance to ask questions.”
Guajardo isn’t the only parent concerned about the tower — Anita Springsteen also has a student at the Kendrick Lakes.
“The tower is recklessly close to the playground, the preschool, and the school itself. Within feet of it,” she said. “There is a great deal of disagreement about the safety of cell towers, so it seemed particularly irresponsible to place one so close to children who will have prolonged exposure day in and day out.”
According to information provided by Stacie Oulton, Lakewood’s public information officer, Federal Communications Commission regulations require local jurisdictions to allow cell towers. Federal law also preempts local governments from creating regulations that are more restrictive than those at the federal level.
The tower — which will be leased to Verizon — will be disguised as a tree and was built with all the required permit and approval.
“In Lakewood, cell towers of up to 60 feet are allowed in any zone provided that in residential zones, the tower must be a stealth tower, meaning it looks like a tree or is disguised in another way,” Oulton said. “Such stealth towers only need to obtain a building permit from Lakewood. If it were not a stealth tower, then a special use permit would be required.”
Since the project only required a building permit, the approval comes from city staff, Oulton added.
In response to questions about the project, Dave Singh, principal of Kendrick Lake, directed all inquiries to Diana Wilson, chief communications officer with Jefferson County Public Schools. She said the district doesn’t have a comment, since it’s a private property and city process.
“We do not have cell towers on public school property because of parent concerns,” Wilson added.
Requests for comment from St. Jude were directed to the Archdiocese of Denver.
“The way this typically works is the pastor (in this case Father Robert J. Kinkel) makes the decisions on the land they own, and the Archdiocese provides resources in the form of experts in areas like finances and real estate,” explained Dave Uebbing, interim director of communications with the archdiocese. “St. Jude's Parish and the archdiocese have worked dilligently over three years to ensure that all safety and building protocols are followed. The research on cell tower emissions at this point in time has not shown that they are harmful to children."
Springsteen also express concern about the noise, the “attractive nuisance” of the equipment shed, as well as fuels and industrial work happening near children.
“Verizon works to ensures all of its cell sites are in compliance with state and federal standards. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires compliance with its Radio Frequency (RF) emissions safety limits to ensure the safe operation of cellular facilities,” said Meagan Dorsch, corporate communications with Verizon. “Verizon fully complies with all standards and operates well within the safety guidelines set by the FCC. Additionally, we work with local jurisdictions to ensure all applicable federal, state and local regulations are followed.”
Local leaders like Dana Gutwein, one of the councilmembers from Ward 5 — where the tower is located — said she has heard from two parents about their concerns.
“I take these fears seriously and followed up by getting additional information and advocating for a community meeting,” she said. “Because there are federal regulations protecting health and safety regarding cell towers, the city can’t pass stricter regulations. I am confident in our staff, and they are making sure all the ‘I’s’ are dotted and the ‘T’s’ are crossed.”
Following the efforts of parents like Guajardo and Springsteen, the church, Verizon and other local leaders held a meeting on April 27. Guajardo said she thought the meeting was to set up a formal meeting that more people could attend, mostly likely in the evening, but discovered it was to be the only meeting.
“I felt like I was forced to be an expert on some of these complicated issues for the meeting, and I didn’t know I was going to be in the role of speaking for all residents,” Guajardo said.
When asked if Verizon would participate another public information meeting, Dorsch said “Verizon representatives already attended a meeting and addressed the concerns brought to our attention at the time from area residents. Our goal is to always be a good neighbor, wherever we build a cell site.”
Ground has already been broken on the site, and Dorsch said it takes about 90 to 180 days to build a cell site, barring delays from uncontrollable issues like the weather.
Even as the tower goes up, Guajardo said she’s still dedicated to getting more information and working to get the site removed, even though she feels let down by the lack of response from St. Jude and Father Kinkel.
“I want more parents to be aware about this, and want to get more information about this, though the whole process has been emotionally exhausting,” she said. “This should really be about the most important thing — our kids.”
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