A cell phone tower developer is backing away from a proposal to put a tower at Greenbelt’s Eleanor Roosevelt High School. The decision comes as scrutiny is mounting over the company’s confidential lease with the Board of Education that allows tower development at 73 of the county’s 208 schools.
Milestone Communications has told Prince George’s County Public School’s CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell that it will withdraw its application to put a tower at Eleanor Roosevelt H.S. Maxwell criticized the company saying it has “not met our desired standards for transparency, communication and community engagement." Maxwell made his comments in a letter to Board of Education member Lupi Quinteros-Grady, who opposed tower development at Roosevelt.
Even so, the school system in 2016 renewed a lease with Milestone that gives the company rights to develop as many as two towers at dozens of county schools. At least six schools are already cell tower sites. One clause in the lease said the terms must be kept confidential.
In exchange for the rights to construct towers and rent space to network providers like T-Mobile and Verizon, Milestone agreed to give the school system 40 percent of gross revenue, according to the lease, which lists the 73 schools in a rider to the agreement.
“People are really waking up to what this master leasing agreement means,” said Theordora Scarato, a Greenbelt community activist and blogger.
Scarato has documented the history of the school system’s dealings with Milestone on her blog, No Cell Tower At PGCPS Schools. She uncovered the controversial lease through Freedom of Information Act requests to the school system.
Scarato said the cell phone tower deal with Milestone Communications did not include any other bidders.
Milestone Communications specializes in revenue sharing with school systems and other institutional property holders in order to develop cell tower sites, according to its website.
During an April 24th community meeting with Greenbelt residents opposed to the Eleanor Roosevelt tower proposal, a Milestone representative was shouted down after saying “some of you would never be happy; I’m sorry about that.”
Some opponents of the towers fear possible long-term health effects from exposure to radio frequency radiation emitted by tower sites despite an American Cancer Society report which finds little risk. Others object to the appearance of the towers.