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County’s Response to Germantown Pulse Editorial on Cell Phone Antenna Meetings

To the Editor;

About the Community Small Antenna/Cell Tower Meeting Editorial of Sept. 19 titled "County Pulls Fast One with Small Cell Antenna Meetings"

First, I would like to apologize to the community for the lack of adequate notice for the Small Antennas/Cell Towers meeting on September 19. Because of an oversight on our part, we failed to get the word out about the meeting in a timely manner. There was nothing “sneaky” about it as the Germantown Pulse claims. It was a mistake, and one we intend to rectify.

That is why at the start of the meeting, we acknowledged our error, and promised the community that we would hold another meeting in October. We have now scheduled that meeting on October 23 at the County Council Office Building in the 3rd Floor Hearing Room - 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville MD 20850. To further inform the community, the meeting will be televised.

However, the Pulse never tried to contact us to ask about the short notice or more importantly, the subject of the meeting – Small Antennas/Cell Towers. Instead, they labelled us sneaky and wrote an inaccurate attention-grabbing headline. They also did not publish a story about the meeting to inform the community about how the coming changes in Small Antenna/Cell tower technology may affect neighborhoods, and how the County is attempting to ensure that the residential communities are protected by passing the ZTA.

I also want to correct a reporting error in the Germantown Pulse’s editorial. The meeting held in October 2016 at Ridgeview Middle School in Gaithersburg was not the most recent meeting on Small Antennas/Cell Towers as they reported. The County held an informational community meeting on June 16th in Rockville, which was well attended and noticed. At this meeting, the County gathered the community input to the policy objectives it hoped to achieve with a Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA). We took that input into account when drafting the ZTA that is now out for public comment. After gathering the community input at the Germantown and Silver Spring meetings and the October meeting in Rockville, the County Executive will consider this input and then finalize the ZTA.

In addition, the October meeting is not the last public comment opportunity. The ZTA will be transmitted to County Council and there will be a public hearing scheduled at Council.

For more information about the ZTA and Small Antennas/Cell Towers, go to: http://montgomerycountymd.gov/cable/towers/zta-links.html

Joy Nurmi

Special Assistant to the County Executive

Editor’s Note: The Germantown Pulse did call and left a message at the phone number listed on the County’s TFCG | ZTA website FAQ page. The call wasn’t returned until the day after the meeting. As for not covering the meeting and the issue at hand. Germantown Pulse, much like probably 98 percent of its readers did not know about the meeting until 23 hours before the meeting. As many know, Germantown Pulse has a full-time staff of one person. Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts occur. At the time of the meeting, our staffer had a previous engagement which could not be rescheduled.

The point of the editorial was that a meeting about a controversial and complicated issue which would affect residential neighborhoods was not properly publicized. That point is true. The Pulse acknowledges that mistakes happen.

The Pulse is very happy to hear that another meeting has been scheduled to address this issue with the public on Oct. 23 in Rockville. We will never know if the County would have felt the need to host another meeting had The Pulse not posted that editorial. The Pulse and the community would like to believe that it would have, but we will never really know. The editorial was an opportunity to call the County to the carpet, and the County deserved it. Germantown Pulse stands by the editorial.

- Kevin O'Rourke, Editor/Founder, Germantown Pulse.

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