Montgomery County residents fighting rezoning to allow new 5G cell towers

It is being called the next generation of wireless technology, but some residents in Montgomery County said new cell station equipment would come at a tremendous cost to the community.

5G wireless antenna units are intended to deliver faster wireless internet and rezoning would allow dozens of these cell towers to go up around North Potomac and in other parts of the county - some of them in neighborhoods.

However, some residents said these towers pose health concerns and are fighting the proposed change to zoning to prevent them from coming to their neighborhood.

On Tuesday night at a county council public hearing, residents spoke out about these wireless antennas, some slated to be as close as 20 feet to homes and schools. North Potomac could get 61 of them.

The residents opposed to the rezoning are not against the telecommunication companies like T-Mobile that are trying to move this forward, but said they would rather see these cell towers in commercial areas and not in neighborhoods.

The Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce said these new 5G wireless antennas would be good for businesses as data usage continues to increase.

"How often do you go into a small store or even visit vendors on the street or a farmer's market where they will process your payment through a Square connected to your phone or an iPad," said Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Ginanne Italiano at the council public hearing. "This need for reliable wireless coverage and data will only increase in years to come."

"If I can't fight the science and the Congress said to the FCC you have the absolute right to do this … I have become accepting of the fact that the tower is going to go in," said Germantown resident Marc King. "Will it have a health effect on me? I don't know. It will certainly lower the value of my property."

One of the 5G wireless antennas is slated to go in 20 feet from King's home.

The Environmental Health Trust spoke about the potential health risks associated with 5G wireless antennas. The group said the antennas could "cause and promote cancer, accelerate the growth of bacteria, and also damage them nervous system, reproductive health and DNA ... We should promote wired, not wireless, infrastructure which is safer, faster and more secure."

During Tuesday's public meeting, a representative from T-Mobile also spoke by saying in the first quarter of 2018, demands on the network have already exceeded demands from 2012 to 2016.

The Montgomery County Council has scheduled a work session to continue discussions on the issue of rezoning on May 3.