New cell tower concerns parents of Bolles Lower School students

County-approved tower near Ponte Vedra campus part of new PGA headquarters

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Many parents at The Bolles Lower School Ponte Vedra Beach Campus are concerned over a new cellphone tower that was installed earlier this week.  

The new tower is on PGA Tour property, which is right next to the school. The school is located on ATP Tour Boulevard just off A1A South in Ponte Vedra Beach. 

A group of parents told News4Jax they’re worried about unknown health risks the tower could bring. 

They said a cellphone tower should not be close to the area where young children play on the playground. Parents said not only is it concerning for their children’s health, but also it’s visually unpleasant. 

Parent Alexandra Hill said parents never heard a word about the plans for the new tower and were shocked when they saw it quickly go up in just a couple days. They said they now want it removed.

“Potential health risks and a lot of it is just unknown because we don’t know,” Hill said. “We don’t want our children to be the ones that see what happens.”

PGA Tour said the new tower is part of the new PGA headquarters project and was approved by St. Johns County in 2017. A county spokesperson told News4Jax that the agreement went through three public meetings/hearings and was unanimously approved by the Palm Valley Architectural Review Committee (4-0) and the Planning and Zoning Board (6-0) in August 2017, and the Board of County Commissioners in October 2017 (5-0).

The county spokesperson added that letters about the proposed project were mailed to the community, including the Bolles School, on August 4, 2017, and signs were posted on the property and advertising was placed in a newspaper. 

The new tower is replacing an older one that isn’t far from it. PGA Tour said the older tower has been there for more than 20 years and will likely come down at the end of the summer. 

PGA Tour said there’s no difference in the two towers, other than the new tower is an updated model. It’s also stronger and will fare better during storms.

A PGA Tour spokesperson said a representative had multiple conversations with the school’s leadership prior to the approval of plans and that the PGA Tour is continuing to talk with the school to help put concerns to rest. 

According to the American Cancer Society, there’s currently no research that shows a direct link between cancer and towers like the one parents are concerned about. 

But parent Katie Gold, who’s also a doctor, said it’s the fear of the unknown. 

“I think this could be one of those things we just don’t know enough about right now to put it right by where our children are spending their days,” Gold said. 

The Bolles School President and Head of School Tyler Hodges sent News4Jax the following statement regarding the 5G cell tower installation: 

“The new 5G single pole cellular tower erected this week behind the Bolles Lower School Ponte Vedra Beach Campus soccer field fence is on PGA TOUR property. We understand it replaces an obsolete tripod tower that had existed for many years just 600 feet from the new tower. The new tower, which is not yet active for 5G, also includes the county emergency communication system. To our knowledge, the structure was properly permitted and approved by the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners for the PGA TOUR two years ago and followed all federal and local regulations.  PGA TOUR assured Bolles administrators that the School was made aware of the tower along with the neighboring community.

"Any concerns or questions regarding the construction of this tower or the merits of its location should be directed to officials with the PGA TOUR and St. Johns County.  This is a concern for the Bolles Ponte Vedra Beach community. We will continue to work through this issue with our neighboring partners the PGA TOUR.  The health and safety of all Bolles students, faculty and staff are our number one priority.”

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