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Swift opposition mounts to cell tower

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Representatives of the two cell tower companies that made a presentation April 8 to an ad hoc committee of the Anna Maria Island Community Center propose the use of a stealth “flag pole” tower with concealed antennas, unlike the Holmes Beach tower. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Reaction to the two presentations on a cell tower made April 8 to a committee formed by the Anna Maria Island Community Center executive board was swift.

Anna Maria resident Hal Badger said it sounds like a cell tower at the community center is a “done deal.”

With both presenters recommending a minimum 90-foot-high cell tower, Badger claimed that’s above the maximum height of 37 feet allowed in the cell tower ordinance. He said he spent a morning reading the ordinance passed in 2003 by the city commission.

And if any cell tower is approved for the center, Badger recommends the revenue go to the city because the center is on city property.

Former planning and zoning board member Bob Barlow also expressed concern about tower revenue.

He supported the need for better cell phone coverage in the city, but noted that he also is a taxpayer.

“Does the existing lease agreement with the city allow for a sub-lease to a telecommunications company unrelated to the recreational component of the city comprehensive plan?” he asked.

Barlow also wanted to know if revenue from a cell tower at the center would belong to the city because the community center is on city property.

Mayor Mike Selby said residents Jane Powers and Jamie Walstad came to his office to discuss the center’s cell tower presentations.

The mayor said the women were adamant that the cell tower ordinance not be changed to accommodate the carriers. He said he told Powers and Walstad that he doesn’t have a vote on the commission, and it’s up to commissioners to amend an ordinance.

“We have an ordinance and if (commissioners) follow that, everything should be fine,” Walstad said.

“My fear is the ordinance would be changed with a few words to accommodate the cell tower people,” she said.

In 2002, Walstad was an opponent of a proposed cell tower at Roser Memorial Community Church and was instrumental in the city eventually adopting a cell tower ordinance and master wireless services communications plan.

Selby said he had several phone calls about the issue, and was somewhat surprised at the reaction.

He explained that the city commission several months ago directed him to contact cell tower operators to determine if any were interested in providing a cell tower in Anna Maria.

The commission directive came as a health and safety issue because several people told commissioners they were unable to reach 911 for emergency services unless they took their phones outside a structure.

Three cell tower companies expressed an interest in the city, Selby said.

After looking at possible sites for a tower, the mayor said all three indicated “the best site was the community center,” he said.

With that information, Selby said he directed the carriers to center executive director Pierrette Kelly.

“I did what my bosses instructed me, and I’m not involved in any cell tower. Until an application is presented to the city, there’s nothing more to be done.”

Selby said he gave all three companies a copy of the city’s cell tower ordinance for review.

“It’s up to them to determine if they can work with our ordinance. If they can, I guess they will apply, but for now, there’s nothing more for the city to do. We don’t have any applications.”

The mayor did note that he’s been hearing more from supporters of a cell tower in the city than from those opposed to a tower.

Cell tower representative James Eatrides of Alpha-Omega Communications was at the April 8 meeting and said it would take 12 to 18 months to get all required approvals and a tower constructed and operating. The tower construction would only take about three months.

Both representatives at the center meeting said the latest cell-tower technology allows for towers that look and function like a flagpole.

“When people on the Island hear ‘cell tower,’ they immediately think of Holmes Beach. This tower looks nothing like Holmes Beach,” Eatrides told the center committee. All the antennas on his company’s proposed tower are housed inside the pole, hidden from view, he said.

At the city commission’s April 14 meeting, Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick suggested the cell tower issue be placed on the commission’s April 28 agenda for discussion and public input.

Webb agreed. “This is an important issue,” he said, and indicated the city needs to be sure of its process if an application is presented.

Since the city adopted its wireless facilities/cell tower ordinance in 2003, a number of companies with different types of cell towers and technology have made presentations to the city commission. While many of those representatives talked about an application, none have yet been submitted.

10 Responses to Swift opposition mounts to cell tower

  1. Kent Armstrong says:

    If the “powers that be” in Anna Maria allow a cell tower, I will probably faint dead away, because, from my observations, they don’t seem to want anything that upsets their precious status quo.
    Shame on them.

  2. Al Regular Island Visitor says:

    Afraid despite the lure of potential cash either to the community centre or the city, my vote is a big NO thanks.

    Ironic that Bradenton Beach commissioners on April 21 are set to consider the first reading of a draft telecommunications ordinance that prohibits cell towers anyplace but government property. Come on Anna Maria do the same!

    The height regardless of how it is dressed will dominate and spoil the skyline for miles around.

    No mention of any associated health hazards either? Nothing conclusive, but various reports around the globe suggest a possible higher cancer risk to certain types for those in close proximity to telephone masts and the like.

    Sorry as nice as the money sounds, it is not worth selling out Anna Maria for a few dollars for each head on the Island. Best wishes Al

    • Ken Kavanaugh Jr. says:

      Al- Nice summary. I responded to the first mention of an AM cell tower a while ago. I am a homeowner on AM and live in the North Atlanta community of Roswell. I have been deeply involved in opposing two cell tower proposals by T-Mobile on our street (a very residential area). T-Mobile is now in the process of being acquired by ATT(maybe unrelated to the AM suitors). The towers, even the “flagpole”versions, are unsightly, aestheticaly reprehensible,and proven to depreciate property values within reasonably close range due to aesthetics and percieved harm from EMF’s.

      But one of the key issues-health hazards- was precluded as a reason for municipalities to deny cell tower applications in the 1996 Telecomunications Act passed by Congress (read lobbyist buyoff of the FCC and Congress). However, European countries such as Sweden and England and also down in Australia have long term studies indicating a 20% increase in various cancers within a reasonable distance from the towers due to the Electromagnetic Field Radiation (EMF’s) spewed by the monstrosities. Key to that is elderly and young people were most affected. Cell reception is a great convenience, but at what price to the community.
      Later,
      Ken

  3. Heather says:

    As a homeowner on the island, being close to the community center greatly concerns me regarding the health hazards that a cell tower could bring. With small children, I am greatly opposed to the idea of a cell phone tower here. It would be horrible to think that my child could be harmed from the radiation…potential brain tumor or infertility later in life?? The risks far outweigh the monetary benefit. What ever happened to the good ole land line for those that are worried about safety issues and cell phone reception

  4. Tom Hanks says:

    We visit every April. Where we stay, cell coverage is non-existent. A BIG inconvenience!
    Time for Anna Maria to get its head out of the sand and provide a modern service that all visitors need.

  5. Rick Call RN, Anna Maria and St Pete says:

    The remote and not scientifically proven risk of radiation, cancer, etc. Does not hold a candle to the very real and immenent danger posed by a tourist or resident without a land line (currently about a third of all accounts) who attempts to use a cell phone to dial 911 and either can’t get a signal, gets a dropped call, or has to try to find a neighbor with a land line to summon help in an emergency. A person in cardiac arrest has less than 5 minutes without CPR to suffer permanent brain damage or death. As a practicing critical care nurse, I have all too often seen the fallout from delayed EMS response. Don’t let it happen to your loved one due to cell tower phobias. Our city fathers need to step up on this issue, or be prepared to start adding zeroes to the check of a fallen victims family who could not reach EMS in a timely manner.

  6. Tim says:

    There is little to no risk of harm from a tower like the one suggested by the AMI Community center. Also aesthetics should not matter when the need is so great. Two Saturdays ago I was on Bean Point when a large boat beached itself inside the beach buoy located 500 feet offshore from the point. I wanted to call law enforcement about it, but I could not get a signal on my phone. So, I say, full ahead where communication is needed!

    • Ann Chappell says:

      I do not bring a cell phone beach. I am not that important to the livihood of others that I need to carry one.

      Should you find yourself in the same situation again, walk to the Rod and Reel Pier Restaurant and explained the situation and asked if I you could use their phone.

      I hope that helps.

  7. Kim says:

    I am a homeowner quite close to the community center and I would rather face the unproven dangers of the cell tower than not be able to reach help in an emergency. To those people who worry about the dangers, I hope they are not using cell phones at all! There are studies and fears that cell phones can cause brain cancer! As far as the aesthetics around the AMI community center being effected, I propose that a better concern could be applied to the residents close by who do not maintain their properties and use their yards/carports as storage units. I too will be shocked and “faint dead away” if this goes through.

  8. Watching this! says:

    Stand FIRM! The industry will destroy your property values if you let them

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