December 26, 2012

Churches leasing steeples for cell sites

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Cellphone providers are heading to church as they scramble to find places to put up towers.

click image to enlarge

The steeple of the Stowe Community Church in Stowe, Vt., rises out of the snow-covered landscape. Churches with cell sites welcome the lease money from wireless companies, which can total as much as $4,000 a month.

Associated Press file photo

Plans to install cell transmission towers at Southern California houses of worship have sparked controversy and even protests. But they're also a way for small congregations to raise money.

Some critics dislike the aesthetics while others fear the towers create a potential radiation danger to children and neighbors, the Los Angeles Times said.

Last year the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified electromagnetic energy from cellphones as "possibly carcinogenic," adding it to a list that also includes things such as coffee and gasoline engine exhaust.

The cellphone trade group CTIA said that emissions from cellphone towers are thousands of times below the limits for safe exposure set by the Federal Communication Commission.

There were protests this year after plans were announced to place a dozen T-Mobile antennas in the steeple of the Little White Chapel in Burbank. In May, the City Council declined to approve the project.

In the Tujunga neighborhood of Los Angeles, critics citing aesthetic grounds have protested plans to put a Metro PCS tower disguised as a pine tree at Our Lady of Lourdes School, a parochial school on church property.

On the other hand, Verizon won planning commission approval in October to place a dozen antennas inside the steeple and cross at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Camarillo.

Churches with cell sites say they welcome the lease money from wireless companies, which can total as much as $4,000 a month.

There are about nine T-Mobile transmitters attached to an outdoor cross at the Green Hills Baptist Church in La Habra, which bring in about $20,000 a year, said Bob Gallina, the pastor.

The church first leased space to Pacific Bell about 20 years ago, he said.


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