Salem residents are beginning to notice the presence of cell towers and other wireless equipment in our community.  And, recently, they’ve become displeased.

Clearwire and T-Mobile currently have agreements that enable them to place wireless equipment on structures (such as telephone poles) in the City’s rights-of-way.  In addition, T-Mobile, AT&T and Clearwire lease space on the City’s communication towers, and, in March, the Salem Planning Commission approved larger arms for city cell phone towers, extending their arm length from one foot to three feet.  In June the city considers new codes that some feel may not fully protect citizens from radiation and cancer.

Nearly everyone acknowledges that wireless devices are essential for modern life, but when the Grant Neighborhood of Salem received notice of a proposed cell tower on Commercial Street, they came out in opposition.  Board member Cara Kaser approached the Salem City Council with her concerns.

Representing the Grant Neigborhood Association, Kaser says her biggest objection is that “the cell tower will be within less than 50 feet of several single-family homes.”  Although the land the homes are located are zoned “General Industrial” – people are living in them.  Kaser says this causes Grant NA to consider the site “to be unacceptable, and not in line with the City’s priorities for cell tower siting.”

Cell towers, according to Kaser, “should not, and really don’t need to be located within feet of single-family homes. Locating towers within residential areas degrades the quality of life for these neighborhoods and significantly negatively impacts people and families living adjacent to these towers.”

Citizens like Kaser worry that the City having insufficient codes for wireless equipment leads to problems.  “Not having a plan to deal with cell towers has led to… wireless communications facilities being located on inappropriate sites, such as in residential areas and directly adjacent to homes.”

She’d locate cell towers on existing infrastructure if she could.  “If we want to get greater cell coverage in downtown, then locate a cell facility on the top of a downtown building. These buildings are already several stories high, and a cell array would only need to extend a few feet higher.”

Kaser says that the participation and interest of citizens and neighborhood associations are crucial.  She encourages a watchful citizenry.  “Remember,” she says, “this is something that we will have to live with for the foreseeable future.”