Proposed Tahoe cell tower riles some Incline Village residents | nnbusinessview.com

Proposed Tahoe cell tower riles some Incline Village residents

Ryan Hoffman
rhoffman@tahoedailytribune.com

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — A proposed cellphone tower in the heart of Incline Village has riled some residents who say they are concerned about potential health impacts.

Incline Partners LLC is seeking a permit from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency for a 112-foot communications tower that could host up to four antenna arrays. The tower is described as "multi-carrier" meaning different carriers, such as Verizon or AT&T, could have an antenna array.

The tower would be located at 231 Village Blvd., right in the heart of Incline Village near a dentist's office. The property that houses the dentist's office is owned by the same LLC that owns the property where the cellphone tower is being proposed. The owner would be leasing the property to Incline Partners.

The proposed tower is designed to resemble a tree. According to Incline Partners, the project is intended to improve coverage in Incline.

"This facility will greatly enhance wireless phone and data coverage within commercial and urban zoning areas of Incline Village," states a project description submitted to TRPA. "Currently there is a poor to no wireless phone and/or data service or other emergency phone service along this main corridor in Incline Village centered near the intersection of Tahoe Boulevard (Highway 28) and Village Drive."

Despite regular complaints about poor coverage in the community, some residents are raising concerns about the project, particularly about perceived health impacts.

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"What I suggest is that the community get behind this and send an email down to the TRPA and fight this because this is unacceptable for health reasons for this community," longtime resident Pete Todoroff told the Incline Village General Improvement District Board of Trustees on Wednesday, Sept. 26.

TRPA is accepting comments on the proposal up to Sept. 31. The Agency has already received a number of phone calls, emails and letters, according to TRPA spokesperson Tom Lotshaw.

Health concerns

Todoroff's comments Wednesday echoed sentiments shared during the regular Incline Village/Crystal Bay Community Forum that he hosts every other week. The proposal also became the topic of fierce debate on a local Facebook page, with many people stating they did not want a tower in the proposed location.

Some argued about the aesthetics, but many raised concerns about potential health impacts.

It's far from the first time residents at the lake have raised such concerns.

A proposal by Verizon Wireless to improve coverage in South Lake Tahoe drew criticism from some residents when it went before the Planning Commission in August. Specifically, some said they were troubled by the possibility of upgrading the facilities to 5G service.

5G, shorthand for fifth generation, is the latest emerging generation of wireless technology. As with each previous generational change, 5G is expected to bring faster speeds and other improvements.

While much has been made about this latest generation of wireless technology, major carriers are prioritizing 5G rollouts in a limited number of major metropolitan cities by the end of this year, meaning it could be some time before the technology — which relies on more towers because the signals don't travel as far as 4G — reaches the Tahoe Basin.

Major news outlets, including the Los Angeles Times and CBS, have reported on people's fears about health risks posed by 5G. Those and other reports state that, at this point, the fear is not backed up by definitive evidence.

It's unclear if Incline Partners intends to use the facility for 5G service. The Tribune was unable to contact Incline Partners, a registered limited liability company in the state of Nevada, according to the Secretary of State's records.

And there are no confirmed carriers associated with the application at this time, according to TRPA's Lotshaw.

Incline Partners did commission a report by a California-based registered engineer who concluded the maximum radiofrequency (RF) wave exposure level would be .0333 mW/cw2 — well below the Federal Communication Commission's maximum exposure in the most restrictive range, which amounts to 0.2 mW/cw2. Exposure would increase slightly on the second floor of nearby buildings, but would still fall well below the FCC's exposure recommendation. Both results pose a "worst case" scenario, according to a summary of the study.

Previous protest

If Incline residents turnout in large numbers to resist the proposal it wouldn't be the first time.

AT&T dropped its bid to install a 4G tower in 2012 after residents expressed outrage over the tower's proximity to Incline High School. Driven largely out of concern over possible health impacts on students, members of the community quickly amassed petition signatures against the proposal. The effort proved successful and the proposal was dropped.

Speaking before IVGID trustees Wednesday, one of the people behind that effort, Incline resident John Eppolito, said he would not be leading the charge against this current proposal.

"I have mixed feelings about it. … It needs to be somewhere I guess," he said, adding that his feelings would change if this or any other tower were proposed near a school.

As for the timeline going forward, TRPA staff could decide to proceed with the project as early as Oct. 1. Should that happen, the matter will ultimately go before the TRPA hearings officer, who would hold a public hearing. Affected property owners would receive additional notice about the hearing two weeks before the actual meeting.

How to comment

Comments should be submitted to Bridget Cornell, associate planner, by Sept. 31. Comments can be sent via email to bcornell@trpa.org or submitted via mail using the following postage address: Attn: Bridget Cornell, associate planner, current planning division, P.O. Box 5310, Stateline, Nevada 89449. To view plan documents, visit bit.ly/InclineTower.