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For Immediate Release. Statement by Rick Meyer, Executive Director, Montgomery County Coalition for the Control of Cell Towers (MC4T) –Whoops, PHED Committee Chair Goofs Again; ZTA 19-07 Needs Big Band-Aid

For Immediate Release

Statement by: Rick Meyer, Executive Director,
Montgomery County Coalition for the Control of Cell Towers  (MC4T)

Whoops, PHED Committee Chair Goofs Again;  ZTA 19-07 Needs Big Band-Aid

Councilmember Hans Reimer is fully admitting that he and the wireless industry lobbyists, who last year essentially spoon-fed the Montgomery County Council zoning language for ZTA 19-07,  made a Titanic-sized mistake.   A mistake so big it requires a “Mulligan ZTA” to repair a giant hole.

Today, Mr. Riemer introduced ZTA 2022-01,  which is “fix-it” legislation to specifically include utility poles. Turns out that utility poles  are separately defined under County wireless zoning code and not subject to ZTA 19-07. To fix the hole requires a ZTA 2022-01 patch job. Which means Mr. Reimer is also effectively conceding that when recommending ZTA 19-07 to the full Council, the PHED Committee that he chairs (including Councilmembers Andrew Friedson and Will Jawando),  inexplicably managed to omit the essential giveaway that the  wireless industry coveted most: Unfettered access to more than 30,000 utility poles in Montgomery County!

Further, ZTA 2022-01 will cut in half the minimum set-back distance in residential zones to just 30 feet for utility poles instead of the 60 feet that applies now. The “do over” illustrates that neither Mr. Riemer nor his co-sponsors (Councilmembers Gabe Albornoz and Craig Rice) had any idea when ZTA 19-07  was drafted back in 2018 how the wireless sections of Montgomery County's complicated zoning code actually worked .

And even though Mr. Riemer’s  PHED Committee added radical amendments offering up incredible handouts and concessions just to benefit wireless corporations (and ignoring opposition testimony of dozens of residents) ZTA 19-07  still wasn't good enough! Those amendments included lopsided procedures and low-ball fees for conditional use hearings.

It took Mr. Riemer  5 years of flailing away at various failed wireless ZTAs to finally pass an industry written ZTA 19-07. He did so under the cover of the COVID-19 global health crisis that locked us all in our homes. He relied on "virtual" Council meetings with no further public hearings in the 20 months since the one and only public hearing - that was based only upon early un-amended drafts of the zoning change.   After all that maneuvering , the wireless lobbyists belatedly discovered they’d managed (from their viewpoint) to pass a profoundly flawed ZTA 19-07.

So, Mr. Riemer and the wireless lobbyists now want more - they want ALL those utility poles just 30 feet from dwellings – and he  is  unabashedly asking the County Council to further pander to the wireless industry, again,  by voting  for a Mulligan (“do-over”) ZTA 2022-01.

Nice job, Councilmember Riemer.  Go ahead, take another swing.


Posted by adminMC4T

(Imposes Cell Towers Near Homes-With No Minimum Setbacks!)

Sweeping amendments have drastically altered the scope and legislative intent of the original ZTA


The County Council worked very hard during the COVID-19 pandemic with an emphasis on transparency and communication to protect the health and safety of residents in ALL County neighborhoods.

Now, as we emerge from this Pandemic, we urge the entire Council to continue that spirit of leadership, communication, and transparency by conducting a new public hearing before the Council takes up formal consideration of ZTA 19-07, Telecommunications Towers ― Limited Use. The first hearing was more than 20 months ago.

Changes made by the PHED Committee in 2021 have drastically altered the scope and legislative intent of the original ZTA, and if enacted, those sweeping amendments will eviscerate resident and neighborhood zoning protections that the sponsors already seek to substantially diminish through the ZTA itself.

In its February 10, 2021 and March 10, 2021 meetings discussing ZTA 19-07, the PHED Committee made extreme changes that go far beyond the legislative language originally introduced that was the basis of the November 29, 2019 Public Hearing.

The scope and impact of these recent substantial changes appear to be intentional. During the 02/10/2021 PHED Committee meeting, at minute mark 1:26:25, ZTA Sponsor Councilmember Riemer said:

After this session, we’re going to be considering modifications, new ideas…I think this ZTA was crafted with a fairly pessimistic view about what Councilmembers would be
willing to support.

To illustrate how these 2021 amendments made by the PHED Committee are completely beyond the originally stated scope of the Zoning Ordinance as proposed:

  • Setbacks for Antennas on Existing Structures (Sec. 3.5.14.C. 2.e.iii.) have been reduced to just 30 feet from any residence (see the Committee’s 3/10/2021 discussion beginning at minute mark ~ 46 through 49:50); and,
  • The process that regulates replacement utility poles in Sec. 3.5.2.C.2.b. has essentially been nullified, presumably relying upon the February 10, 2021 Council Staff’s interpretation (see pp. 9-10 of the staff packet), whereupon changes also effectively revise existing regulations in all zones. This section in the current zoning ordinance provides more rigorous resident protections for setbacks, pole heights, aesthetics, and more.

Additionally, through the 2021 substantial changes, ZTA 19-07 now:

  • Diminishes the Limited Use minimum residential setback from 60 feet to 30 feet.
  • Deletes the 30-foot minimum setback standard, so that the Hearing Examiner may approve ANY setback reduction for a replacement pole or for an entirely new pole at a new site.
  • Allows completely new poles where no pole previously existed, and at this juncture what can only be called a “half-baked” process.
  • Drastically changes the height limits of poles, allowing them to go up to heights of 50 feet.
  • Prohibits residents living beyond 300 feet of the proposed site from public participation in the OZAH process.

These changes were made during the height of the Pandemic, when residents were not focused on the ZTA that was introduced, more than 20 months – almost two years - ago.

Given the substantial scope and complexities  of the changes to the original ZTA as introduced for the November 2019 public hearing, and the overwhelming opposition expressed to  ZTA 19-07 at that  hearing, this ZTA as amended by the PHED Committee during its March 10, 2021, meeting MUST BE GRANTED  a new public hearing.

Concerned Residents: Call and E-mail  Councilmembers Now!
phone * e-mail * tweet

Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz (ZTA 19-07 co-sponsor) 240-777-7959

Councilmember Andrew Friedson 240-777-7828
Councilmember.Friedson@ montgomerycountymd.gov

Councilmember Evan Glass 240-777-7966

Tom Hucker (Council President) 240-777-7960

Councilmember Will Jawando 240-777-7811

Councilmember Sidney Katz 240-777-7906

Councilmember Nancy Navarro 240-777-7968

Councilmember Craig Rice (ZTA 19-07 co-sponsor) 240-777-7955

Councilmember Hans Riemer (ZTA 19-07 Lead Sponsor) 240-777-7964

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich 240-777-2500

Posted by adminMC4T in Action Alerts

Can you please speak up for your community today? Send a message to your Montgomery County Council members today.

The Montgomery County Council is considering a bill that would cut crucial safeguards against 50 foot tall cell towers and allow them to be installed 30 feet from our homes with no notice to the public.

A key Council committee has decided to move this bill, Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 19-07, even though cell tower radiation safety standards were created 25 years ago, long before anyone thought these cell tower antennas could be installed next to bedroom windows. [1]

This huge giveaway to Big Wireless will also hurt local property values. All of this is occurring as ATT, Verizon, and T Mobile show no coverage gaps for 4G and 5g service. [2]

That's why we're counting on concerned Montgomery County residents like you to reach out to the Montgomery County Council to say NO on ZTA 19-07. We can do better!

We can't let the Council rush through this ordinance -- but we can stop it if Council members hear directly from voters.

Send a message to your Montgomery County Council members today.


[1] The FCC in 2020 refused to reconsider its decades old radio frequency radiation standards, despite substantial new scientific evidence of the harm from this radiation. Some of the latest scientific studies were conducted by the NIH National Toxicology Program, and showed that continuous exposure to radiofrequency radiation in the cell phone range caused cancer in laboratory animals. The Environmental Health Trust has sued the FCC, arguing that the 2020 decision was arbitrary and capricious and violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act. (See EHT v. FCC). They were joined by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

[2] See https://www.att.com/maps/wireless-coverage.html, https://www.t-mobile.com/coverage/coverage-map/, https://www.verizon.com/coverage-map/

Posted by adminMC4T in Action Alerts