WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT
CENTENNIAL OPERATIONS COMMITTEE MEETING
Date: February 14, 2011
Place: Village Hall Council Chambers
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Commissioners: Miller, Murdock, Wolff
Staff: Wilson, Bowen, Bingham, Eppelheimer, Grisamore, Donoghue
Candidates: Robin Baugher, Gary Benz, Shelley Shelly
Additional Visitors: See Attached
Topics of Discussion:
1) Meeting Called to Order
2) Approval of Minutes
3) Communications & Correspondence
4) Recognition of Visitors
1) The meeting was called to order at 6:30 p.m.
2) The Committee approved the minutes of the January 10, 2011 Committee meeting by General Consent.
3) Under Communications and Correspondence, Director Wilson reported he had received approximately 20-30 emails and letters over the last couple of weeks regarding the proposed Centennial cell antenna. Commissioner Miller added he received correspondence from 100 people with 98 opposed and two in favor. Commissioners Murdock and Wolff received emails on the subject as well.
4) Under Recognition of Visitors, Committee Chair Miller recognized the following individuals but stated any discussion will most likely be cut off at approximately 7:10 pm to allow time for the Committee members to discuss the issue and hopefully vote to make a recommendation to the full Park Board after this meeting.
Dennis Brickman, 2240 Wilmette Avenue stated he grew up in Wilmette and worked at the Centennial Tennis facility. He then recited the Park District’s Mission Statement which is “to enrich the quality of community life and promote wholesome activities through creative programming for people of all ages and abilities while protecting open space and natural resources for future generations.” Mr. Brickman strongly opposes the cell tower based upon this mission statement set forth on the Park District’s web site.
Brad Martin, 300 Apple Tree Lane lives near the Centennial Recreation Center and he and his two daughters are involved in many Park District activities. They do not feel comfortable with a cell antenna being installed on the roof and are requesting that the Park Board take immediate action to cease further negotiations with Callahan Communications and that AT&T pulls its special use application from the Village’s Zoning Board. He stated the Telecommunications Act of 1996 is over 15 years old and is antiquated. The Park Board as owners of Centennial should be known not as the regulatory body but rather as acting in its propriety capacity on deciding whether or not to enter into a lease with AT&T. This fact was confirmed with various zoning attorneys and acknowledged by the Wilmette Village Manager in an email exchange through FOIA. The Park Board should not be comfortable with the standard FCC guidelines since they do not protect or address the biological effects of long-term RF radiation exposure. The EPA has also stated specifically that the current guidelines may be insufficient to protect humans against exposure. It is hoped the Park Board makes a prudent and cautious decision and to listen to the voices of Wilmette’s concerned citizens.
Lisa Finks, 2303 Old Glenview Road thanked the Board members for their service and for providing the opportunity to be heard. The current plan is risky for several reasons. Studies show that cell antennas can cause negative health effects and some of these studies are included in the binders provided to you. The FCC guidelines regarding emission are 15 years old and the Park District never took into account the problems with long-term exposure, depreciating property values and possibly exposing Wilmette to additional liability. In addition, ill-will may result from this debate on either the perceived or actual risk of health problems and people in our community may choose to not use Centennial. There is a petition signed with over 500 signatures from residents who all expressed similar concerns and we are asking that the installation of this antenna be stopped.
Olga Aronov, 925 Manor Drive stated her husband and two children age 7 and 9 are heavy users of Centennial. She mentioned that a highly regarded, two-time Nobel Prize winner in medicine stated that the existing safety guidelines are completely inadequate since it is only focused on thermal exposures. Another study in Germany conducted on the population of those living within a 400 yard-radius of a cell tower and those that live beyond the 400-yard radius found that the incidents of cancer in the population living closer to the tower was higher.
Paul Naftali, 2401 Concord Lane is a neighbor of Centennial and has two concerns. One is the impact on our property values and secondly the aesthetics of the future project. He hopes the District will understand the affect on our residents. He also does not like the dumpsters near his house and is afraid they will be moved even closer. He believes the tower will have a terrible impact on their beautiful neighborhood. He does appreciate the Board’s work and hopes the members understand his concerns relative to the cell antenna.
Sheldon Hirsch, 516 Meadow Drive, stated he is a physician/scientist with several years of experience and provided some information on how he thinks physicians and scientists think about the studies. His concern on the studies is that they understate the threat to high-risk populations. The studies include large groups of people exposed to low-risk radiation, people who live on the fringes of radiation fields, and people who have intermittent exposures. In this case, there is a very high risk group who will be placed in the radiation field on a daily basis for many hours all summer long and in the winter as well. This high risk exposure was not addressed in these studies. An appropriate question to ask is do these studies prove a link between radiation and cancer. Physicians look at what is called a risk benefit analysis. In this case there are a number of observational studies that are backed by a plausible scientific basis. This is a level of evidence which is quite similar to that which guides most of the decisions physicians make. This level is taken very seriously by the medical community and by several organizations including those in Europe who are currently conducting an international study on the effects of cell tower and cell phone radiation and cancer. Physicians tend to follow in the direction of safety and refrain from providing any treatment that may possibly harm someone. He strongly suggests the District not ask the question if this is proven but rather to think in the manner in which physicians and scientists usually do which is to do no harm.
Philip Schmidt, 2407 Concord Lane, stated his house is also very close to Centennial. They have lived in Wilmette for 22 years and are strong supporters of the District and appreciative of the services the Park District provides. In the past, he has supported the Park District’s Community Recreation Center and the Aquatic Center building projects. However, the issue being discussed tonight is about money. Cell towers generate money to the Village and the Park District and we all live in a pretty affluent community. He thinks that the District could instead raise fees by a $1 or $10 which would cover the $36,000/year in revenue that would be generated from the cell tower. He is also very concerned about the potential medical issues and property values. He stated a lot of time and effort has been spent making their neighborhood beautiful and his AT&T cell phone has great service. This is one time the District should support their residents and find another way to generate revenue.
Howard Kleiger, 2341 Meadow Drive South stated renting the space on the roof will create only one certainty for the District and that is money. There are many uncertainties such as the probable negative impact on real estate values. The people who will suffer are those who live close to Centennial. Another uncertainty is the health risk factor. Even cigarette smoking was once thought to be harmless and it may be years from now before we know if cell towers pose a risk. But to install an antenna on a children’s facility just seems like an unnecessary risk even if the perceived risk is small. The tower could go somewhere else, just not on top of the children. The larger question is why the District needs to help AT&T in providing better phone service. That is not the job of the District. On behalf of his family, he thanked the Board and hoped a reasonable decision would be made.
Susan Kleiger, 2341 Meadow Drive South, stated that the petition included in the binders had over 550 signatures, both electronically and on paper, and were gathered in only two weeks. Had there been more time there would be many more signatures. This is an issue which affects and is important to the entire community. People are concerned about the health, safety, beauty, cleanliness and character of this community. She thanked those residents and the Park Board for listening. She asked they continue to listen to the constituents and do what is in the best interests of the community
Art Lutschaunig, 1335 Maple, stated that although he is not geographically close to Centennial he is there approximately 200 days a year either by himself skating or swimming or accompanying his daughter who plays hockey. He is against the proposal for the following reasons. He does not think this facility should be thought of as a business that generates revenue. Secondly, they live in Wilmette because it is a community and should not perceived as industrial or commercial. He also does not think there would be a benefit of using our public parks to generate revenue for companies, particularly given the potential health issues. He also asked why the District would want to take a chance on the possible health risks that may be real. The Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois sent an email strongly asking that the proposal be dropped. Maybe there is a better location for the cell tower. He has been a hockey and soccer coach for several years and whenever there is lightening or thunder, the coaches are told to pull the children off the field immediately to keep them safe. There is a very slim chance of getting struck by lightning but why is the District considering a cell tower when there may be the same chance or higher. He suggests the District get the children “off the field” and out the way of a potentially harmful situation before this lease is signed.
Ellen Kaufman, 2339 Meadow Drive South, stated she and her family live close to Centennial and have the same concerns expressed by many of the residents here tonight. Her daughter uses the facility and they are concerned about her safety. But she is also concerned about the park itself. As a result of these concerns, she contacted the US Fish and Wildlife Service as well as other governmental agencies. One Washington DC biologist she spoke to forwarded some documents for inclusion in the binders. He also found it hard to believe a cell tower was being considered for a park. There is also compelling research from Europe that a microwave antenna is devastating on wildlife such as birds, bees and small mammals in terms of their behavior, reproduction, and their community. The United States is behind many European countries as well as Russia and the biologist believes the United States will also begin to set stricter guidelines. Copies of this research including his testimony before Congress was included in the binders.
Tom Finks, 2303 Old Glenview Road, stated he is at the meeting to collaborate some of the testimony regarding the youth hockey associations who plan to participate at events at Centennial Ice. A letter was sent to the Park Board from the President of the Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois which is the governing body for hockey in the state requesting the Park District terminate the proposed plan to lease space at Centennial to AT&T for the installation of cell antennas since the radiation emitted may be a health hazard, especially to children.
5) Committee Discussion:
Committee Chair Miller stated that this meeting needs to adjourn shortly since the Park Board meeting will begin shortly. However, all those in attendance at this meeting will also be able to speak at the next meeting. He also asked the other Committee members to express their opinions on this issue and to vote on it as they see fit.
Commissioner Murdock stated that this is obviously an issue that has interested many members of our community. He thanked everyone who was in attendance and thanked the over 500 people who signed the petition. This is also an issue that we need to further discuss at our Board meeting when all seven Commissioners will be able to consider it since the three votes at the Committee level is not sufficient to make a final decision.
Commissioner Wolff stated the one thing he has observed over the 12 years he has been on the Park Board is that it has been responsive to the will of the community. Examples of this are the swimming pool project which started out as an indoor pool but then the community wanted an outdoor pool instead. The Mallinckrodt project had 500 people signing petitions to keep the park and the District facilitated that purchase. Another example of when the community spoke out was during the Community Playfield issue. As a result, he does not see any reason to change the precedent now. There has been no compelling reason for the Board to sign this contract since it would not economically benefit the District nor benefit our residents. Given the history of this Board and the way we reacted in the past, I believe we should vote against the cell tower.
Commissioner Miller stated that when the cell antennas were installed on the chimney at Mallinckrodt there was no public outcry. He also cannot judge certain things that were said tonight on the merits of the medical aspects of what the cell towers create and if they are harmful or not. However, there were three statements made that he fully agrees with such as the ill will created in the community, the insufficient amount of money the District will generate from this contract, and the negative impact on property values. However, he still is not completely sure about the possible medical issues. So based on those three points, he will vote to not support the contract.
Commissioner Murdock stated that the Committee was now going to vote and then the full Board will vote at the Park Board meeting after this meeting. He also added there are a number of additional questions and it is obvious the community has spoken very clearly. But he also needs to hear more information on the technical aspects of the application. He attended the Zoning Board meeting when this issue was discussed and statements were made about the application from an aesthetic standpoint that he was unhappy with and feels they may not have been fully addressed. He will certainly vote one way or the other after he has heard the entire presentation this evening. As a result and for this Committee’s purposes, he abstained from voting.
Commissioner Wolff moved and Commissioner Murdock seconded a motion to recommend that the Wilmette Park District discontinue negotiations for the installation of a cellular tower at the Centennial Recreation Complex..
By a roll call vote, voting Yes – Commissioners Miller and Wolff; voting No – None; Commissioner Murdock abstained from voting. Motion carried.
Commissioner Miller stated this will be the recommendation from the Committee to the Park Board and that this vote is non-binding but the vote at the Park Board Meeting is binding. He also thanked everyone for attending the meeting and he appreciates the time and effort made by so many people.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 7:30 p.m.
Minutes taken by Jeffrey Bowen.
MINUTES APPROVED ON MARCH 14, 2011.