LAND O’ LAKES — A group of parents opposed to plans for a cell tower at Seven Oaks Elementary won round one Tuesday when they persuaded Superintendent Kurt Browning and the Pasco County School Board to delay action for another month.
The parents say the school district is putting their children’s health at risk in exchange for the money the cell tower would generate.
“We have not been given enough time for a decision to be made today,” said Dionne Parks, the mother of a fifth-grader.
The board, at Browning’s request, agreed to wait until Dec. 17 before it votes on a cell tower lease agreement with F&L Towers of Tampa. The 10-year lease, which includes options that could extend it to 30 years, calls for the company initially to pay the school district annual rent of $24,000.
The rent would increase 3.5 percent each year. In addition, the district would receive an extra $12,000 annually for each tenant that locates on the tower. The district estimates the tower could generate more than $1 million over 30 years.
Parent Stuart Campbell said two cell towers already exist within two or three miles of the school so he doesn’t see the need for another one.
“I implore the board, don’t give this the go-ahead to have this tower in the middle of our school to jeopardize our children’s health,” he said.
The parents said if money is an issue, they would prefer to participate in fundraisers. They also said the district has moved too quickly because many of them didn’t know about the cell tower plans until about two weeks ago when a meeting was held at the school.
Sanela Dzanan said it is the location, not the technology, that is at issue.
“We like cell towers; we need them,” Dzanan said. “We do not need them above our children’s heads.”
Research varies widely regarding the potential harm of living in the shadow of a cell phone tower.
Cell phone companies cite research that finds few effects. Opponents have their own studies that raise questions about long-term exposure to radio-frequency emissions.
The school district already earns revenue from cell towers at Fivay High School in Hudson, Long Middle in Wesley Chapel, Sunlake High in Land O’ Lakes and a future middle school site in the Meadow Pointe subdivision in Wesley Chapel. Cell tower lease agreements also have been approved for Gulf Trace Elementary in Holiday and Sand Pine Elementary in Wesley Chapel, but those towers haven’t been constructed yet.
“The fact there are already cell towers approved in our district is a crushing blow to me,” parent Chantal Roberge said.