Despite robust public opposition, the cell tower was approved and is scheduled to be installed this year at 630 South Mountain Road – the location of the Gardiner Highway Department. The Gardiner Town Board approved the location stating that it would improve the cell phone reception in low lying areas of Gardiner. The Town Board also held out the carrot that a possible reduction in property taxes for town residents might be made with the revenue from the cell tower. The board however never forecast any specific tax deduction, a key piece of data which would have allowed town residents to fully analyze the risks and benefits.
There were a variety of reasons for the community’s opposition to the cell tower. Brian Stiscia, the Highway Superintendent, had concerns that ice on the tower in winter could fall down on highway department equipment damaging it as well as endangering those who work there. He also stated, “If my memory serves me correctly, this cell tower will not provide improvement to the problem areas that currently exist in the Town of Gardiner. However, it will take the overload from the Wright’s tower on Route 208 which will improve drop calls. A third tower will still be necessary to correct the poor cellular service that exists in the Town.” Many residents attended the open board meetings in-person and on Zoom saying that they were appalled that the town board would allow the cell tower to be located on “the Ridge” where it would spoil the iconic view for residents and visitors. However, no one fought harder than the town residents whose properties are close to the proposed location. They organized a group called CellNo!, and one member of the group, Linda Goldsmith, shared, “My neighbors and I have spent countless hours researching, educating ourselves on health effects of EMF (Electromagnetic Field) exposure, hiring lawyers, submitting testimony, attending Gardiner meetings, and speaking up against this travesty. We lost. It was an emotional and very time-consuming battle. There is absolutely no proof that this tower would eliminate the poor cell reception in low lying Gardiner areas. It should also be restated that there were/are other sites available that would not be so close to homes.”
There are health concerns. Across the country there are advocacy groups fighting residentially-placed cell towers. Pittsfield, MA erected a tower and 20 people are already reporting illness, three of whom were diagnosed with cancer. If more cancer occurrences in a defined geographic area arise over a specific time period, it is classified as a “cluster”. A cancer cluster may be suspected when people report that several family members, friends, neighbors, or coworkers have been diagnosed with the same or related types of cancer. Even when a cancer cluster has been identified, the current federal Telecommunications Act does not allow citizens to voice health concerns as a reason to oppose the installation of cell towers despite cancer clusters occurring near cell towers (Sources https://www.plumasnews.com/letter-to-the-editor-cell-towers-and-cancer, https://healthjournalism.org/blog/2009/03/san-diego-cancer-clusters-hazard-or-coincidence, and https://www.americansforresponsibletech.org). “Lawyers say that you cannot speak of negative health effects in fighting a cell tower or you will lose based on the translation of an existing federal Telecommunications Act created to resist opposition to cell towers. In keeping with this legal advice, CELL NO! did not speak about health outcomes during the application review. So now there is a new group called Gardiner for Responsible Technology whose purpose is to educate Gardiner residents about the realities of the negative health effects from EMFs (Electromagnetic Frequencies) from these technologies,” Linda Goldsmith explained. “Most Gardiner residents live far enough away from the hot zone around the tower, so they need not be concerned about the health concerns for themselves. However, we believe they do care about their fellow residents who live in the hot zone. If you are concerned, please join us by emailing GardinerforResponsibleTech@gmail.com.”