Greenwich state legislators are proposing a bill that would prohibit building cell towers within 750 feet of a school or day care, but some parents say that distance isn't far enough to ensure their kids' safety.
Cat Rock Road resident Wayne Jervis believes telecommunication companies should not be allowed to build the towers within an entire mile of a school, saying children's health could be at risk from tower transmissions up to more than 5,000 feet away.
Jervis and several neighbors asked commuters at the Cos Cob rail station Thursday morning to sign a petition supporting their push for greater distances between towers and schools, day cares and elderly homes.
Jervis said the group collected more than 100 signatures.
He believes the 750-foot measure -- proposed by Rep. Fred Camillo, R-151st District, and supported by fellow Reps. Livvy Floren, R-149th District, and Lile Gibbons, R-150th District, as well as Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-36th, -- does not go far enough.
"It addresses the visual impact (of having a cell tower) on the horizon, but it doesn't really address the true health concerns," said Jervis, who cited studies showing a higher risk of health problems due to long-term exposure to the electromagnetic radiation from towers as far as a mile away. The parents' effort Thursday comes as some residents continue to rally against a plan by telecom giant T-Mobile to erect a more than 150-foot-tall cell phone tower at one of a half-dozen proposed sites in Greenwich.
Last year the company's proposal to build a tower in the form of an 80-foot flagpole at 328 Palmer Hill Road drew the ire of neighbors and parents of children attending nearby North Mianus School, who raised concerns about potential adverse health effects of phone transmissions from the tower.
Faced with that uproar, T-Mobile worked with the town to look at other sites, including Montgomery Pinetum, 129 Bible St., but this plan sparked anger from residents there who also opposed the tower.
Allowing T-Mobile to build at a site bordering the Pinetum -- the land owned by the Cos Cob Archers at 205 Bible St. -- has recently emerged as another possibility that has drawn tentative support from First Selectman Peter Tesei.
But even this idea is drawing criticism from parents like Jervis, who noted that at least two schools -- North Street and North Mianus -- fall within roughly a one-mile radius of the archers club.
Cat Rock Road resident Brian Feurtado, who helped gather commuters' signatures Thursday, does not believe a new cell tower is needed in that area, saying the coverage is already adequate.
"I don't know why we have to put people's health at risk when we have coverage," he said. "We don't want to radiate our children."
"Seven-hundred-and-fifty feet is kind of a hand wave," Jervis said of the 750-foot rule being proposed by state legislators. "If it's not for children's health, why are they wasting the ink on the paper?"
Frantz said 750 feet was the longest distance he and other supporters believed they could propose to have a chance of getting a hearing for their bill from colleagues in Hartford.
He said the bill is almost certain to face scrutiny from lawmakers concerned about violating the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. That law prohibits any state or local agency from regulating telecommunications towers on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions.
"I have to believe in my own personal judgment that there is no way (a one-mile requirement) would be (considered) permissible, because it would effectively put out of business cell phone providers," said Frantz. "You're better off trying to use a realistic number to get a realistic distance."
Frantz also said there could be an argument to be made for keeping towers at a safe distance to minimize topple hazards.
Gibbons said she, too, believes Greenwich's delegation to the state legislature would get behind a bill calling for a greater distance if members believed it stood a chance of being considered.
A message for comment was left Thursday for Jane Builder, a senior manager of external affairs for T-Mobile.
Staff Writer Colin Gustafson can be reached at email@example.com or 203-625-4428.