The association is concerned about many factors related to the tower proposed by T-Mobile, including property values, financial benefits and a general need for more planned, future-oriented development in the neighborhood, said Joanne Massey, an association member.
“I think the first thing everybody needs to ask themselves is whether or not you’re concerned about the negative impact of having a cell tower that’s visible to almost the entire neighborhood. In particular, it would be in our front yard, so we’re really not excited about that,” she said.
Community members and the DeKalb County School System have been trying to find a tenant to use the school, which will no longer operate as a school, and potential tenants might be deterred from moving forward if a cell tower was on the property, Massey said.
“We certainly don’t want to do anything to the property that could potentially deter a great tenant,” she said.
Residents are also concerned about how the tower could affect property values, Massey said.
“If somebody’s looking at a property, and they have a nice wooded area with a nice little school there, and then they look at another property that’s got this big ugly 150-foot high 60-by-60-at-its-base cell tower, which one would you choose?” Massey said.
She added that the neighborhood has already lost one selling point: an elementary school within safe walking distance.
Though T-Mobile has promised financial incentives to the local schools, Massey said that the benefit in this case was small and “more of a knee-jerk reaction” by the school board, which is searching for additional revenue sources.
She said the best-case scenario would be about $25,000 a year, though where it would go remains unclear. I similar cell tower cases elsewhere, she said, half of the money goes to the host school. In this case, there is no host school anymore.
“We feel like that our neighborhood’s kind of getting dumped on,” Massey said. “You kind of see willy-nilly, weird businesses popping up around, and it seems to me there needs to be a greater vision and a plan for the property before they start building. ... They need to be thinking this through.”
One way to remedy this for the future is for the Medlock area to begin a Livable Community Initiative, which is a longer-term study of the neighborhood and how it can uniquely grow in the future. This involves county's board of commissioners and the county planning board.
Reportedly, expressed an interest in incorporating a cell tower into its steeple. However, its location may not fit the guidelines T-Mobile is using in picking new tower sites.
“Our point is that we’re risking harm to a fabulous neighborhood,” Massey said. “We have a defense here, folks. We don’t have to just roll over. ... We can fight.”
That defense comes in the form of an attorney Massey has hired to represent a number of residents trying to stop the tower. She said she does not yet know to what lengths that attorney will be involved.
She said that residents can also continue writing to the school board and discuss the issue to raise awareness. Residents may also attend the school board’s next scheduled vote on this issue on July 11.
“If [the school board] votes yes to all this, we can still fight them,” she said. “The story is not over.”
CORRECTION: This story said potential tenants at Medlock Elementary School have expressed dissatisfaction with the possibility of a cell tower at the school. No potential tenants have expressed concern. Massey said she was concerned some might. The story also implied that the association hired an attorney. The attorney was hired by a group of residents fighting the tower proposal, and the attorney doesn't represent the association. The errors have been corrected in the story.