By Meghan Glova
Central Oregon Daily
Concerned residents gathered Wednesday evening to have their voices heard by Bend City Council.
The topic of interest, a new cell phone tower being built only a few hundred feet from Elk Meadow Elementary. But to the dismay of many attendees, they learned there’s nothing they can do to stop the project.
City Legal Council, Mary Winters explained approval was given for the tower in October 2017. Now, Council has no jurisdiction because an appeal was never filed. Some neighbors worry the tower will put students at risk.
Elizabeth Hanley Szabo has children who attend Elk Meadow and says, “It’s particularly concerning when you’re looking at young kids. Because even a difference between a five year old and a ten year old is a huge difference in how much their bodies are actually absorbing that radiation.”
One of the primary concerns, particularly of parents like Szabo who have children at the school, is the potential exposure to radiation. However, many parents are confused why they were never told about the tower until it was too late.
“It was really frustrating to find out that it was going up and that the parents hadn’t been notified” Szabo said. “The parents couldn’t express their concern at that point because the window had already passed for us to really make any headway with the city in regards to getting the tower stopped.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, she asked council to consider future cell tower applications carefully and tell the public how to participate.
“It’s not the district’s policy to take a stand on that issue but I think that parents should be notified,” Szabo said. “That’s something that future policy…definitely needs to change.”
According to city officials, the emissions of a cell tower can’t be considered during a land use decision. Only city and county land use rules.