PART 1: This (it seems) might become a series of posts surrounding a now multi-month “battle” and exploration of civil law, zoning, township codes, public “utility” companies, citizen rights, court filings, 5g preparation, and more.
It’s a lot. I’ll try and chunk it all as best as I can. I obviously have a bias (insert, I’m a homeowner, with property, and the deployment of a said cell tower is on our property. Well, the public right of way on/inside our property. More on that to come). I also am not sold nor convinced on 5g tech (more on that to come), especially knowing what I know, and knowing that I don’t know what I don’t know.
This all started this past summer – when a neighbor asked us if we had received a notification from the township about the upcoming zoning board hearing, in which they were discussing petitions from Crown Castle NG East, LLC and their needed variances to deploy the rest of their infrastructure. Short story, they had already deployed over a dozen Distributed Antenna Systems, DA, or “small cells.”
Small cells are closely packed cellular data arrays. How close? On average, townships are being well, literally forced to deploy 20-40 small cells. Basically, instead of having a tower, you now deploy micro towers or arrays. And, instead of being high up on towers, they are now 20-30ft from the ground, and (in our case) literally in your front yard.
Anyway, back to the proceedings. We never received a notice that there was a petition for a variance that had been requested by Crown Castle, to deploy one of these cell antennas on our property. Thanks to kind neighbors, we were able to actually show up (thank god).
Why Variances? Well, see, townships and boroughs, etc, all have codes. Building Codes. Use Codes. Etc. In the above case, a variance was needed to be able to deploy these cell tower/antenna arrays in locations where they did not comply with the Upper Moreland Codes for cell towers and antennas. In our case, not only was the deployment really far from any intersection, but they also needed to erect a brand new structure to house their cellular transmission devices. This last point actually I pointed out to them that this was a NEW infrastructure housing structure, and thus needed a variance for THAT as well. Side point of becoming a citizen attorney – digging through local municipal codes, determining what is lawful, permissible, and compliant. It’s daunting. In fact, it’s almost downright overwhelming at times.
It also becomes altogether frustrating when you sit in meetings and hearings, usually late at night (meetings started at 7:30pm, and often went till 11pm). And this is after a long day before.
So let’s imagine this – no judgments, just expressing thoughts: Here comes the corporate attorney defending Crown Castle, who is paid and job is to well, be an attorney to represent said client. Then, here come, individual citizens, property owners, etc…who have jobs, families, etc…and now must represent themselves (or find the money to hire legal counsel) in these proceedings. Already, you can see the weighted stack. You have individuals whose days are already stacked full, and then, somehow, must find the time to work through the legal documents filed, the codes, and then present facts of finding, arguments, and the like to the township.
It’s frustrating and sad to watch people lodge complaints, lodge their concerns, but because it’s a proceeding of “code,” unless it’s pertinent to whether the variance is “lawful” or not, complaints and the like are not considered. I understand. It’s a proceeding based on the merits of code and code alone. However, stepping back, you have dozens of individuals that represent families, and entire communities…who do not posses the time it would take for many of them to even begin to comb through municipal codes, let alone follow codes/rules/court proceedings to file “permissible” evidence, facts of finding, and the like. And yet, this is largely what the meetings are based upon? One side sits “professional” attorneys, who know the jargon, who know the case materials…and the other, people who now find themselves in this foreign enviornment…who are just attempting to vocalize their opinions, concerns, and what they feel is like their right to express and be heard (yet, what many found out is yes, they can express concerns, but because it’s not well, anything of fact, it doesn’t really matter to the proceedings). This, in follow up conversations, leaves the actual property owners, individuals, residents of the township itself, feeling disheartened, un-heard, worthless…and left with feelings of “why even try? Even if I wanted to try and present a counter opinion, I’m not heard anyway? And how is that fair? This is OUR township. This is OUR property.”
So, this sets the stage folks. And, Upper Moreland is not alone. Hundreds of townships and the like have had Crown Castle come in, and end up “blowing” through the township deploying their cellular transmission devices. Some townships have sued. Crown Castle then counter sues (With its war chest of funds…. again, a private company with deep pockets vs small local townships. Which will last longer) and sues the township into conceding or literally bankrupt the township’s coffers. Or literally sues residents for speaking out against the deployment.
Before we launch into part II – here’s a little look at how many towers are up…
Wait, that’s cell towers. Crown Castle deploys (along with towers) small nodes, or DAS remember. And per their website, they have over 65,000 of these nodes. That map above shows 25k cell towers. That doesn’t include the 65,000 small cell nodes that Crown Castle is deploying and/or already has deployed.
Technology is incredible. However, I find myself standing at this cusp of questioning do we really have to jump into 5g? Are there any other ways? Is it necessary? And is it really sitting well that FOR-PROFIT companies and entities can quick frankly bulldoze through local ordinances and muncipalities without regard to it’s local residents, their concerns, or wants, or QUESTIONS, “lawfully” because they are considered a Utility, and thus they have carte-blance access to public rights of way (which, cha-ching, telephone poles…are in rights of way, and guess what folks, these “small cells” are deployed…guess where? Telephone poles).