By Karen Billing
Residents expressed opposition to a proposed cell tower structure on top of the Carmel Valley Library that they feel is not only unsafe but will drastically change the appearance of the popular and much-used library at the center of town. A public meeting was held on Jan. 28 as part of the community outreach effort in the city’s planning process and people questioned why this centralized site was chosen — a library filled with children next door to an elementary school and surrounded by residential units.
“This is such a concentrated area, I don’t understand how they can choose this location I think it’s so wrong. It’s a wrong decision for people who live here, for people who work here, and for kids that go to school here,” said resident Shelly Ptashek. “I don’t understand why we need it here. When we came here there wasn’t supposed to be a cell tower and we don’t want a cell tower here.”
Doug Munson, vice president and senior planner for M&M Telecom Inc., said the site is needed for AT&T to increase coverage and capacity as its clientele grows. Currently the proposal for 12 antennas and 24 new remote radio units (RRUs) mounted inside raised cupola enclosures on the library is in the process of being adjusted for height and location concerns.
A second public meeting will be held before the plan goes before the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board as those in attendance wanted to see the revised plans and receive the results of an electromagnetic energy (EME) study that looks at what the proposed site would produce in radio frequency (RF) emissions.
Munson said an EME report would be available in the next 30 days. After a second meeting, the planning board will then vote the project up or down in their recommendation to the city, which will have the final say.
One of the biggest issues expressed at the meeting was the public’s exposure to the towers atop the busy library.
Munson said the city can only regulate planning of the site but not health concerns, however, he said they do pay attention to the FCC regulations. The FCC has set limits on human exposure to RF energy and has mandated that a third party conduct an EME study for all proposed wireless sites to ensure they are within the limits.
According to an EME report on the plan as it stands without alterations, in the areas where the general public would have access, the maximum output is 2 percent of the FCC allowable.
“That’s pretty small,” Munson said, noting that as you move away from the project the output decreases exponentially.
Munson said they have studied Carmel Valley extensively and have been scouting potential locations since late 2012. They looked at a cell site atop the fire station and atop Carmel Country Plaza, where Verizon has a unit. Other sites were considered too low to reach Townsgate Drive.
“Frankly, the library wasn’t our first choice because it was going to take a lot to incorporate it into the building,” Munson said.