By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Name-calling and neighbor-bashing fills the comment section under a Facebook post announcing a public hearing to determine whether Park County should allow for the construction of a 195’ cell tower on the highway to Yellowstone Park.
“This tower would be directly in my front yard,” said one Wapiti resident. “What a horrible thing to look at! Nobody would want this in their front yard, especially in a place as beautiful as Wapiti!”
“Too many do not care as long as they have their phone service,” said another.
But for some, cell signal in a remote location, far from any public services, means the difference between life and death.
“There is nothing wrong with that cell tower,” said one commenter. “Those against this are selfish. What about those of us in the Forest with no cell service, and especially in an emergency when no one is around to help?”
A Special Use Permit Application was submitted to the Park County Planning and Zoning office in October, proposing to construct the tower on property belonging to Tamara Young. The tower would be located just a few hundred yards from Highway 14/16/20, where it intersects with Green Creek Road. This is a major artery for residents of the Wapiti Valley, whose homes dot the mountainside to the south of the highway between Cody and Yellowstone.
Sarah Neace, owner of Horizon Tower, LLC, submitted the application. According to Neace’s proposal, the tower would provide indoor service for surrounding homes and businesses, and because 96% of Americans own a cellular phone – and 57% of homes in the U.S. rely exclusively on cellular phones – the tower would provide a necessary service.
But the proposal has been met with serious opposition by most of the residents in the area.
“This location will ruin the view and result in decreased property values for many property owners in the area,” wrote resident Tim McCreary, in a letter submitted to the Park County Planning and Zoning office. “The tower could be located near the top of the hill close to or on Forest Service or BLM land that would also increase the service area! These locations would limit the impact on how a tower obstructs our views. I’m sure that would increase the cost to New Horizon and that’s why they want it close to the highway.”
In the application letter, Neace said they’ve done their best to mitigate the concerns of residents.
“We understand that neighbors are concerned about the appearance of the tower and are doing what we can to mitigate this,” she wrote. “Due to the topography of the area and the coverage objective, it is impossible to place a tower in this area that will not be visible from surrounding properties, but we did our best to separate the tower from homes in the area, and there are trees between the site and the nearest residences.”
Resident Renee D’Alessandro submitted an official comment to the Planning and Zoning office, pointing out that when they and others decided to move to the area, they were aware of the lack of amenities.
“Don’t start changing rules for the few causing an extreme eyesore structure in a total inappropriate area of wilderness, potential health issues, and decrease in housing values,” she wrote.
The unsightliness of a nearly 200-foot-tall tower on the floor of the Wapiti valley isn’t the only concern raised by residents.
“Our family is 100% against it,” wrote resident Dan David in a comment submitted to the Park County Planning and Zoning office. “First, it’s eye pollution, and a health risk.”
The health risk comes from the 5G signals emitted from newer cell towers. Some scientists are warning that the radiation emitted by 5G cell signals can cause cancer, and have other adverse health effects.
Mike Gimmeson submitted a letter to the county detailing the harm that the 5G signals would inflict on his child – one of the reasons that he and his wife, Taylor, chose to move to the Wapiti valley.
“Our son, Sylvan, has an extreme sensitivity to electromagnetic fields. It can cause seizures that require emergency medication and emergency response if that medication fails,” Gimmeson wrote. “After moving here five years ago and with the help of an electromagnetic shelter, neurofeedback, and prescribed medication, Sylvan has not had a seizure in over 2 years. If this cell tower is approved, we will be forced to move and hope to find somewhere else without close proximity electromagnetic exposure.”
Residents had an opportunity to voice their opposition to the proposed tower both in a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in November, as well as a meeting with the Park County Commissioners Tuesday.
Joy Hill, Park County Planning and Zoning Supervisor, told Cowboy State Daily that the Planning and Zoning board has recommended against allowing the construction of the cell tower, because of the incompatibility of the proposal to the neighborhood. But she said the decision is ultimately up to the county commissioners.
“The commissioners will now take into consideration all of the facts that have been brought to the table,” said Hill. “They have testimony from staff, the public, the applicant, and they will have to use that information to formulate a decision.”