Thursday, August 2, 2012

Yes, a Cell Tower Will Lower Property Values. And, Yes, Lower Property Values Result in Less Money for the Operating Fund of Our Public Schools

We have been talking about the many, many reasons why there might be some upset people when they wake up in DeKalb County, after an overwhelming majority of voters sent a clear message that we do not want T-mobile towers on our school grounds... only to see a giant cell tower going up right outside their window. 
One good reason they might be concerned is that their property values, already taking a beating, might get even worse.  And, they would probably be justified in thinking that way.
 
Who would want to live right next to one of these things, seriously?
 
The DeKalb County School Board Chairman Dr. Eugene Walker said he would take one in his front yard, but that was before a cell tower in Lilburn caught fire and fell over.  He probably had second thoughts after he saw that happen.
 
And imagine what it’s like for people who purchase or build their dream home or neighborhood, only to later have an unwanted cell tower installed just outside their window? 

This negative effect can also contribute to urban blight, a deterioration of neighborhoods and school districts that can happen when residents move away or pull their children out of school because they do not want to spend so much time near urban health hazards, like cell towers.


People don’t want to live next to one not just because of health concerns, but also due to aesthetics and public safety reasons.  Cell towers become eyesores, obstructing or tarnishing cherished views, and also can attract crime, are potential noise nuisances, and fire and fall hazards.  There is also concern for injuries to people and property on the ground below a cell tower in winter as ice and debris often accumulate up top, then fall to the ground as the weather gets warmer throughout the day. 
 
These points underscore why wireless facilities are commercial / industrial facilities that don't belong in residential areas, parks and schools.  In addition, your county officials have the power to regulate the placement and appearance of cell towers, as long as such discrimination is not unreasonable, and especially if you show them that you already have coverage in your area.


A recent map of the U.S. was released by the FCC to show the areas deficient in 3G wirelss coverage and guess what... DeKalb County, GA, was not on it!  So even the FCC has your back on this one, DeKalb... we are NOT considered to be deficient in our current coverage.  These towers are simply not needed.  They are just an attempt to gain closer proximity to our homes and to push their 4G coverage products on us without consumer demand for them.  This mindset is the opposite of safe cell siting procedures.  The FCC clearly defines the "need" for a tower as something that must come before the approval to build.  That's why T-mobile wants to go around the standard process and use our schools as their accomplice.  They don't care about the fact that children will lose playground space or that their health might be at risk.  They care about profit and nothing else.


Putting cell towers near residential properties is just bad business.
*  For residential owners, it means decreased property values.
*  For local businesses (realtors and brokers) representing and listing these properties, it will create decreased income.
*  For county governments, it results in decreased revenue (property taxes).
*  For state and local school boards, it results in abandonment of schools and distrust of elected officials.
 
Read this New York Times news story, "A Pushback Against Cell Towers," published in the paper's Real Estate section, on August 27, 2010:
 
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/realestate/29Lizo.html?_r=1&ref=realestate
 
A number of organizations and studies have documented the detrimental effects of cell towers on property values.  
 
1.  The Appraisal Institute, the largest global professional membership organization for appraisers with 91 chapters throughout the world, spotlighted the issue of cell towers and the fair market value of a home and educated its members that a cell tower should, in fact, cause a decrease in home value. 

The definitive work on this subject was done by Dr. Sandy Bond, who concluded that "media attention to the potential health hazards of [cellular phone towers and antennas] has spread concerns among the public, resulting in increased resistance" to sites near those towers.

 

Percentage decreases mentioned in the study range from 2 to 20% with the percentage moving toward the higher range the closer the property.

 
These are a few of her studies:
 
2. Industry Canada (Canadian government department promoting Canadian economy), “Report On the National Antenna Tower Policy Review, Section D — The Six Policy Questions, Question 6. What evidence exists that property values are impacted by the placement of antenna towers?”; see attached. Source: Industry Canada http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/sf08353.html website,
 
3. New Zealand Ministry for the Environment, “Appendix 5: The Impact of Cellphone Towers on Property Values”; see attached. Source: New Zealand Ministry for the Environment website, http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/rma/nes-telecommunications-section32-aug08/html/page12.html
 
 
On a local level, taxpayers have informed local school board, county government and administrative offices and state legislative officials.
 
1.  Santa Cruz, CA: Also attached is a story about how a preschool closed up because of a cell tower installed on its grounds; “Santa Cruz Preschool Closes Citing Cell Tower Radiation,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, May 17, 2006; Source, EMFacts website: http://www.emfacts.com/weblog/?p=466.
 
2.  Merrick, NY:  For a graphic illustration of what we don't want happening here in DeKalb County, just look at Merrick, NY, where NextG wireless facilities are being installed, resulting in declining home real estate values.  Look at this Best Buyers Brokers Realty website ad from this area,  “Residents of Merrick, Seaford and Wantaugh Complain Over Perceived Declining Property Values: http://www.bestbuyerbroker.com/blog/?p=86.
 
3.  Burbank, CA: As for Burbank,  at a City Council public hearing on December 8, 2009, hillside resident and a California licensed real estate professional Alex Safarian informed city officials that local real estate professionals he spoke with agree about the adverse effects the proposed cell tower would have on property values:
 
"I’ve done research on the subject and as well as spoken to many real estate professionals in the area, and they all agree that there’s no doubt that cell towers negatively affect real estate values.  Steve Hovakimian, a resident near Brace park, and a California real estate broker, and the publisher of “Home by Design” monthly real estate magazine, stated that he has seen properties near cell towers lose up to 10% of their value due to proximity of the cell tower...So even if they try to disguise them as tacky fake metal pine trees, as a real estate professional you’re required by the California Association of Realtors: that sellers and licensees must disclose material facts that affect the value or desirability of a property including conditions that are known outside and surrounding areas."
 
(See City of Burbank Website, Video, Alex Safarian comments @ 6:24:28, http://burbank.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=6&clip_id=848)
 
Indeed, 27 Burbank real estate professionals in December 2009, signed a petition/statement offering their professional opinion that the proposed T-Mobile cell tower at Brace Canyon Park would negatively impact the surrounding homes, stating:
 
"It is our professional opinion that cell towers decrease the value of homes in the area tremendously.  Peer reviewed research also concurs that cell sites do indeed cause a decrease in home value.  We encourage you to respect the wishes of the residents and deny the proposed T-Mobile lease at this location.  We also request that you strengthen your zoning ordinance regarding wireless facilities like the neighboring city of Glendale has done, to create preferred and non preferred zones that will protect the welfare of our residents and their properties as well as Burbank's real estate business professionals and the City of Burbank.  Higher property values mean more tax revenue for the city, which helps improve our city."


 
(Submitted to City Council,  Planning Board, City Manager, City Clerk and other city officials via e-mail on June 18, 2010.  To see a copy of this, scroll down to bottom of page and click "Subpages" or go here: http://sites.google.com/site/nocelltowerinourneighborhood/home/decreased-real-estate-value/burbank-real-estate-professionals-statement )
4.  And, of course, you can look at our website, www.GETtheCELLoutATL.org for  the long history we have had of fighting for the rights of our schools, children and neighborhoods here in DeKalb County, GA, a suburb area near Atlanta.
 
Here is a list of additional articles on how cell towers negatively affect the property values of homes near them:
 
 •The Observer (U.K.), "Phone masts blight house sales: Health fears are alarming buyers as masts spread across Britain to meet rising demand for mobiles," Sunday May 25, 2003 or go here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2003/may/25/houseprices.uknews
 
• “Cell Towers Are Sprouting in Unlikely Places,” The New York Times, January 9, 2000 (fears that property values could drop between 5 and 40 percent because of neighboring cell towers)
 
•“Quarrel over Phone Tower Now Court’s Call,” Chicago Tribune, January 18, 2000 (fear of lowered property values due to cell tower)
 
•“The Future is Here, and It’s Ugly: a Spreading of Techno-blight of Wires, Cables and Towers Sparks a Revolt,” New York Times, September 7, 2000
 
•“Tower Opponents Ring Up a Victory," by Phil Brozynski, in the Barrington [Illinois] Courier-Review, February 15, 1999, 5,  reporting how the Cuba Township assessor reduced the value of twelve homes following the construction of a cell tower in Lake County, IL.  See attached story: http://spot.colorado.edu/~maziara/appeal&attachments/Newton-43-LoweredPropertyValuation/
 
•In another case, a Houston jury awarded 1.2 million to a couple because a 100-foot-tall cell tower was determined to have lessened the value of their property and caused them mental anguish: Nissimov, R., "GTE Wireless Loses Lawsuit over Cell-Phone Tower," Houston Chronicle, February 23, 1999, Section A, page 11.  (Property values depreciate by about 10 percent because of the tower.)
 
 
Read about other "Tools" that may help you and your fellow residents oppose a cell tower in your neighborhood:
 
•Reasonable Discrimination Allowed
 •We Already Have Good Coverage: Significant Gap and 911
•Alternative Locations and Supplemental Application forms
•Aesthetics and Safety
•Noise and Nuisance and notes about Clearwire
•Health Effects: Science & Research
 
Also print out this helpful article on court decisions from the communications law firm of Miller & Van Eaton (with offices in D.C. and San Francisco) that you can pull and read to realize what rights you may or may not have in opposing a wireless facility in your neighborhood: http://www.millervaneaton.com/content.agent?page_name=HT%3A++IMLA+Article+Tower+Siting+Nov+2008 (click the link once you get to this page). 
  
TALK TO LOCAL REALTORS
 When opposing the zoning or construction of a cell tower, it's important to alk to your local real estate professionals as early in the process as possible.  Inform and educate them about the negative effects on local property values that cell towers have. 
 
After all, they are required by law to disclose any known environmental hazards in the area of a home they are selling, either current or future, so they are well aware that the disclosures they make directly affect the price a homebuyer is willing to pay. 
 
Ask for letters of support to be sent from the Realtor directly to the county Planning and Development officials and cc'ed to you and your local media so that you are educating and informing as many people as possible on this issue as early in the process as possible.  
 
It's very important to have your local real estate professionals back up what the experts report in their studies to make your arguments relative to your specific community. 

And, don't forget the importance of your neighborhood school on influencing your property value.  Here's one local Realtor's take on it:  http://tucker.patch.com/blog_posts/whats-a-huge-factor-in-calculating-your-property-value


HOMEOWNERS' ASSOCIATIONS
 You can also educate your local homeowners' associations and neighborhood councils about the negative property value effects and have them submit letters. 
 
They may also become great advocates for your cause, helping to spread word of mouth about the pitfalls of cell towers among the community and showing up in force whenever your group is called upon to present its side of the issue at a zoning hearing or in front of a committee that must decide about an application for special use of the land in an ordinarily residential-only zone.


DON'T GIVE UP THE FIGHT

This area of the law is still very new and it is expected that many of the cell tower battles will be over unchartered territory.  You are expected to have to go to the judiciary system in some cases as there is no precedent to lead in either direction.  So, do what you can to stand up for your rights!  If you are fighting within the FCC "shot clock" window, you will likely have attorneys' fees refunded as well.  You are not just fighting for yourself, but for all those who will travel the same path after you.

Don't give up.  Be respectful, but take nothing at face value.  Use the media to tell your story if you can get them on your side.  But, focus on your issue, your case and get your neighbors to unite as it will affect everyone in some way.  The more you can help educate others, the better off we will all be in the long run.

If you have any questions, feel free to email us at sayno2celltowers@yahoo.com.  We are not attorneys nor do we offer advice that should substitute for the advice from a qualified attorney in this area, but we have been working on this subject for more than a year and can offer practical input about our own experience that we are willing to share.  Sometimes it helps just to know you are not alone and you have people in your corner.

And, here in DeKalb County, we started with no one in our corner and, as of July 31, 2012, 75,000 voters, a whopping 62%, voted "NO" to cell towers at our schools!  Way to go DeKalb County!