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Editor: Milestone Communications wants a zoning exemption to build a 114-foot industrial cellular tower 350 feet from R-2 zoned homes [“Monopole Proposal Not Convincing Some in Great Falls,” March 15]. This tower fails to adequately improve cellular service, while seriously damaging area property values.

The tower will not remediate coverage gaps along Beulah Road and Browns Mill Road, located less than one mile from the tower. And Verizon plans to deploy 4G equipment, with a depreciable life of just 10 to 15 years. A short-term boost in 4G voice service will degrade into long-term problems as more devices require 5G technology.

Spatial-econometric studies of real estate values near cell towers find homes within sight of towers lose 9.78 percent of their value; homes within a half mile decline 2.46 percent. The projected $18 million loss in property values would reduce property taxes for school support by $212,000.

And expect the actual tower to be taller and uglier than proposed. After originally proposing a single array, Milestone now plans to add T-Mobile and AT&T equipment. Once built, Section 6409(a) of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 allows the addition of 20 feet for another array – without public input.

A better solution exists. Small-cell base-station networks are flexible and less intrusive. They already have been successfully installed in Great Falls and McLean.

Katherine Chalmers, Great Falls

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