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Tuesday, Sep, 25, 2018
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Anna Maria adopts cellular communications ordinance - finally

With all the arguing among Anna Maria City Commissioners the past two months over whether to use "should" or "shall" in the wireless communications ordinance, it's a wonder someone didn't suggest maybe the commission "should" wait until after the Nov. 4 city commission election to vote on the ordinance.

Instead, after nearly two years of preparation at a cost of about $60,000, the commission voted 3-1 at a special meeting Oct. 31 to adopt the personal wireless services facilities don't call them cell towers ordinance.

But there was still bickering over ordinance language, even at this last commission meeting prior to the election.

Outgoing Commissioner Chuck Webb argued for mandatory language in the ordinance and cast the lone dissenting vote.

Other commissioners, however, sided with wireless communications consultant Ted Kreines, who drafted the city's master wireless communications plan and accompanying ordinance, that the language should be directive in nature.

"I think there are enough qualifiers that 'should' or 'shall' won't make much difference," said Commission Chairperson John Quam.

"I disagree," replied Webb, who is a practicing attorney. "If it's not mandatory, how do we require the applicant to abide?"

Webb also wanted the ordinance to retain the 37-foot height restriction on cell tower construction, while Kreines had argued that federal law says local municipalities can't put such a restriction in the ordinance.

"I don't agree with Mr. Kreines. He's a planner," said Webb. When it comes to Florida law, said Webb, there are two attorneys here who have said "don't be permissive," referring to himself and City Attorney Jim Dye.

But Commissioner Tom Aposporos thought the city was "in a good position" with the directive language in the ordinance that makes numerous "suggestions" on height and location standards. A wireless carrier that wanted to construct a "tower" higher than the city wants would face numerous obstacles from the city.

Remember, he said, the federal laws on wireless communications are different because the federal government has sided with the carriers.

Webb is giving valuable advice, but at this point, said Aposporos, the city should "stay directory, not mandatory."

"Well, I think this ordinance is seriously flawed without mandatory language and I will vote against it," replied Webb.

"But I hope I'm wrong and I would be happy to be wrong," he concluded.

Commissioner Duke Miller, who had sided with Webb in earlier meetings on the ordinance, was absent from the meeting.

Commissioners did adopt language in the ordinance that permits a cell tower location in a residential zoning area, however, but only on a city right of way.

The final ordinance also adopted a fee schedule for applicants, but did not include language that would allow the city to add fees that would recoup the approximately $56,000 paid to Kreines to develop the master plan and ordinance.

Resident Jane Green, who was instrumental in getting the city to halt plans for a proposed cell tower at the Roser Memorial Community Church two years ago, said she believed that as soon as the ordinance becomes effective "we will have applications" that will challenge the ordinance.

She commended the commission on finally adopting a wireless facilities ordinance for the city.

The wireless ordinance becomes effective at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 15, the day after the city's current moratorium on cell tower construction expires.

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