The Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church will not pursue a proposal from T-Mobile to install a cell phone tower on its property in Bethesda after impassioned opposition from church neighbors.
More than 30 church neighbors spoke of health fears and damage to property values at a church meeting Jan. 11.
"The feeling on the part of the board was that although they did not necessarily agree with the fears the neighbors had about the dangers of the cell phone tower, it was out of respect for those fears that we would not go forward," said the Rev. Roger Fritts.
Representatives from T-Mobile did not return calls for comment.
The church received the proposal for the 130-foot cell phone tower in March. T-Mobile offered $18,000 to install it. A church committee analyzed the proposal and in August recommended the church move forward with the deal. It sent a letter to neighbors notifying them that the cell tower was under consideration.
That sparked petitions, letters and "No Cell Tower" lawn signs, culminating in the Jan. 11 meeting where nobody spoke in favor of the installation.
Lawrence Grayson of Kensington, who spoke against the tower, said initially it seemed "like a shoe-in" that the church would move forward with the installation. His expectations changed after hearing the community concerns, he said.
"After the meeting is just seemed inconceivable to me that they would go forward with the strong, strong community opposition," Grayson said.
He said the church and the neighbors have generally enjoyed a harmonious relationship, and "this will allow that to continue."
Sten Odenwald, another opponent, said he was "delighted" with the outcome. Odenwald, a physicist with has non-Hodgkins lymphoma, said though the science surrounding the health effects of cell towers is inconclusive, "nobody can tell me where I got that from," so he didn't want to take chances on radio waves being another risk factor.