A downtown Camas business became the target of an online “negative review” campaign this week after a small group of local residents decided to get personal with their efforts to move a proposed cell tower away from a local elementary school.
The negative reviews started appearing on the Navidi’s Olive Oils and Vinegars online sites on Friday, Jan. 24.
Most of the negative messages were of a similar vein: People could not endorse the 10-year-old Camas business because its owners, Ken and Gabrielle Navidi, intend to lease their private land, located about 300 feet from Camas’ Woodburn Elementary School, to the telecommunications giant Verizon for the construction of a 120-foot cell tower.
A woman identifying herself as Dani West of Portland sent a message to the Camas-based Hills at Round Lake community’s private Facebook page on Friday, stating that she and Camas resident Doina Graetz were “looking to launch a campaign to target the Navidis and hurt their business in Camas.”
“Verizon will never back down in the name of our children’s safety — we must take this into our own hands and I believe we can,” West wrote to the Camas neighborhood members in a post that linked to the Navidis’ business site. “We need everyone to write a negative review — share it and then we need people that are willing to help picket, order signs/fliers, etc.”
West did not respond to the Post-Record’s requests for comment.
Graetz, who wrote “STOP KILLING THE CHILDREN!!!” on the Navidis’ business site, emailed the Post-Record Monday, after receiving a request for comments explaining the negative campaign against the Camas business.
“I would have thought that the review was explanatory enough — I will not support a business that will consciously hurt children, by leasing their land to Verizon to build a cell phone tower on the closest corner of their 26-acre property,” Graetz stated in the email. “The Woodburn Elementary School is the closest property to this cell phone tower — within 310 (feet) to be exact — hundreds of children are attending this school every day and hundreds more children live in the community closest to the tower. Young children are more susceptible to the (radiofrequency) radiation from cell phone towers.”
Graetz said she believed it was “futile for anyone to think they can go after a company like Verizon to stop” the cell tower from being constructed near the elementary school, and noted that the company’s representative told concerned parents at a Jan. 22 meeting that “the county has no reason to deny the permit since there is no requirement of distance from any school grounds.”
“However, if Verizon doesn’t have a piece of land to put their tower, we can solve that problem,” Graetz stated in her email. “I understand that Verizon has contacted several property owners in the area with a more desirable location. However, none of them were willing to put a cell phone tower on their property — even though the money was there. The Navidi family apparently has no problem with the future health issues of our children, thus leasing a portion of their property to Verizon … I will not support any business that allows their property to be used to kill my children!”
Dozens of other Woodburn parents and residents living in the neighborhood closest to where the proposed cell tower would be located — on the Navidis’ Clark County property off Southeast Crown Road that is within Washougal’s urban growth boundary and zoned for “business park” use — including the families who started efforts to move the cell tower at least 1,500 feet from the elementary school have said they do not support personal attacks on the Navidis or their family business.
“Those of us who established the ‘Camas — Proposed Cell Tower’ Facebook group to try and convince Verizon to move this project 1,500 feet from the school did so because this is the standard being adopted in several other U.S. municipalities and multiple European countries,” said Emanuel Konstantaras, one of the parents who first alerted neighbors and media to the cell tower proposal. “In our group, we’ve made calls for civility and respect toward the owners of the 26-acre parcel who intend to lease land to Verizon to construct this tower. … We are all parents and community members who have sprung into action, doing so with respect for all involved, no matter how difficult the situation.”
Instead of contributing to the negative online campaign against the Navidis’ business, Konstantaras said he and the other parents who spearheaded efforts to move the tower will “continue to work with Verizon and its agents to accomplish (their) goal of seeing this tower moved elsewhere on the (Navidis’ property) to place it more than 1,500 feet from the school” or to another spot in Camas.
“Verizon has an opportunity to make themselves the heroes of our community and we sincerely hope that they’ll consider this as they finalize their plans,” Konstantaras added.
Graetz said she felt parents don’t have time to start lobbying a company as large and powerful as Verizon.
“I wish I didn’t feel that there is no other option left at this particular moment and within the time we have left before Verizon file(s) for the permit with the county — that I have to boycott the business of the person who is solely responsible for this tower to be erected within 320 feet of the school perimeter,” she said. “I have nothing against the Navidis (making) money off of their land however they see fit — as long as it’s not harming my children.”
“My children’s health and well-being comes before anything else, and I don’t have the time to politely start lobbying or nicely appealing to a company like Verizon that has (hundreds) of lawyers and couldn’t care more about my children,” she added. “If Verizon doesn’t have land to put their tower on, a tower will not be built within 320 feet from an elementary school or my backyard.”
Graetz questioned why the Navidis did not attend a Jan. 22 meeting with Verizon representatives and community members upset about the proposed cell tower.
“If Navidi is so set on making money (from) this tower, then he can tell Verizon he will only lease his land if the tower is at least 1,500 feet from the school perimeter,” she added.
The Navidies said they were dismayed by the negative-comments campaign directed toward their longtime downtown Camas business.
“I do not know any of the people in opposition (to the cell tower), yet (the fact that) they feel the need to attack me and my family personally is just sad,” Ken Navidi told the Post-Record. “Our community has had issues with bullying and targeting recently with the ousting of (former Camas Mayor Shannon Turk) over a pool and now with a cell tower.”
Navidi said he believed the opposition group should be focusing its efforts on Verizon as well as the three municipalities — Clark County, the city of Washougal and the state of Washington — that have designated what is allowed on his property.
“Under the state (Growth Management Act) rules, once your property is brought into the city’s (urban growth area), the county and the city designate what is allowed on your property,” Navidi said. “As a (property) owner, I could ask the county to do a short plat subdivision of 1- to 2-acre lots, but the county has said, ‘no.’ The county designated my property as BP, Business Park. When the city of Washougal annexed my neighbors’ property to the east and north of mine, they did a very simple sub-area design of Woodburn Hill (calling) for business park (zoning) at the very lower end of my property.”
Navidi said he questions where the families’ push for the “1,500 feet away from the school” standard came from and wonders what the folks attacking his business online hope to accomplish.
“If Verizon backs down and doesn’t build the tower (on my) property but across the street, still within 1,500 feet of the school, are (they) prepared to picket and target that family as well?” he asked the people targeting his business.
The parents asking for the tower to be moved 1,500 feet from the Camas elementary school — most of whom have not contributed to or supported the negative online campaign against the Navidis’ business — based their request on evidence-based research that one of the parents, James Jang, a former employee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ medical research agency, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), had discovered, which showed that the safety of cell towers has not been proven and that some studies conducted in Germany and Israel have shown an increased risk of cancer for children who attend schools within 1,500 feet of a cell tower.
In mid-December, Jang told the Post-Record he had met with Ken Navidi following a November meeting about the proposed cell tower and that Navidi “seemed like a reasonable man.”
“I got the sense he genuinely wants to do what’s best for the community,” James Jang said, adding that he had provided Navidi with a fact sheet showing the results of a 10-year, $30 million NIH study released in 2018 showing “clear evidence” of tumors in the hearts of male rats, and “some evidence” of malignant tumors in the brains of male rats that had high exposure to radiofrequency radiation used by cell phones and coming from cell towers.
Ken Navidi said in December that he had read a number of articles on cell tower safety “and the data comes up inconclusive.”
“I have not seen any articles yet that prove cell towers cause harm,” Navidi said in December. “If there was a study that showed cell towers to be more harmful than the cell phones we carry in our pockets, then maybe I would reconsider putting (the tower) on my property.”
Konstantaras said most of the parents and neighbors who oppose the tower have focused their efforts on Verizon, not the Navidis.
“We are focused on Verizon and have embarked on a letter writing campaign to them directly,” Konstantaras said. “We hope that Verizon takes steps to move the tower 1,500 feet from the school grounds as the community is requesting. That said, people are upset and feel like they are not in control of their (children’s) fate (and) health. The proposed site will affect a lot of parents and families in the community for years to come and that does understandably upset people.”