New T-Mobile telecommunications tower approved near Magnolia

MAGNOLIA — A new telecommunications tower that will provide T-Mobile service obtained its final approval at Tuesday night’s Kent County Levy Court meeting.

The applicant, Eco-Site, can now pull permits and begin construction at the 23-acre property located northeast of the Cedarfield Road and Pintail Pointe Drive intersection southwest of Magnolia.

The sought zoning variance met with unanimous approval from the seven Levy Court commissioners.

During a brief presentation, the applicant’s attorney noted that between 2007 and 2013 demand on cell networks rose 30,000 percent and “hasn’t slowed down since” — he also said that 70 percent of 911 calls are now made from mobile phones. T-Mobile’s interest in the site was to fill a gap in what was termed an area with “marginal signals.”

The attorney was accompanied by a civil engineer, radio frequency engineer and a site acquisition representative to answer any questions the public or commissioners may have had, but these extra precautions were unnecessary. There was no public opposition to the proposal.

County administrator Michael Petit de Mange said that over the past few years, cell tower proposals have been experiencing less resistance from the public — however, it wasn’t always that way.

“Back in the early 90s when cell towers were starting to pop up, they were big structures and here on a coastal plane there were concerns about hazards to aircrafts and things like that,” he said. “There were also health concerns — people were worried about exposure to microwaves and there were questions about whether they caused cancer.”

As the industry matured and the body of evidence against health concerns has grown though, said Mr. Petit de Mange, opposition to the towers has diminished. He recalls early public hearings packed with concerned citizens having microwave technology explained to them by experts.

“We’ve learned that there is a lot less microwave yield from these towers than initially thought,” he said. “I think in some jurisdictions they may still be fighting these battles, but we haven’t seen much push back here lately.”

Mr. Petit de Mange also noted that as Kent County sees more cell tower saturation and competing service providers co-occupying towers there are less and less projects seeking approval.

“Of course, there are some areas that still lack reliable service, but we’re starting to see fewer proposals,” he said.

The Regional Planning Commission meeting on May 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Levy Court Chambers on 555 Bay Road in Dover will give a public hearing to three more proposed telecommunications towers planned for Hartly and Cheswold.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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