Anna Maria Island Community Center board of directors chair Greg Ross said he plans to ask the Anna Maria Commission for permission to negotiate with a company to construct a cell tower at the center.
Ross said there was “misinformation” circulating that the board was trying to railroad a cell tower proposal through the commission.
“Anna Maria owns the lease, and we never intended to not go to the commission. We’re going to ask for permission to negotiate with one of the companies that made a presentation,” Ross said. The issue could be presented to the commission as early as Oct. 31.
Anna Maria Mayor Mike Selby said he advised Ross to ask commissioners to amend the center’s lease because a cell tower is currently not a permitted use. Additionally, the mayor said he told Ross that an ordinance amendment or a new ordinance might be needed, depending upon the application.
Selby said wireless services consultant Rusty Monroe studied the city’s 2003 wireless services ordinance and submitted a number of recommended changes to city attorney Jim Dye.
“Unfortunately, Dye won’t be available at the Oct. 31 meeting, so the center presentation might get pushed back to a November meeting,” the mayor said.
Ross said board members favor a cell tower disguised as a flagpole because that seems the “least obtrusive.” The tower would be 90-150 feet high, depending upon the number of carriers. The city’s ordinance limits the height of a cell tower to 35 feet.
Ross said the ad hoc committee that reviewed four cell-tower applicants narrowed its choice to one preferred applicant, but he declined to name the company until a presentation can be made to the commission. He said the preferred choice is one of the two companies that made a presentation to the center board April 8.
One presentation to the board was from Anna Maria homeowner Stacey Frank, a Tampa attorney. She said her company has been building cell towers in Hillsborough County for several years. The company has built 12 cell towers on Hillsborough County public school property that last year generated $316,000 in revenue, she said.
She estimated a cell tower at the center with one carrier would bring a minimum of $1,200 a month in revenue. The amount would increase as more carriers were added to the tower. Frank said the monthly revenue could reach $5,000 to $6,000, or as much as $72,000.
Frank said her company would give the center a $25,000 deposit if it signs with her company.
James Eatrides of Alpha-Omega in partnership with Ridan Industries also made a presentation April 8. He proposed a lump-sum payment of $150,000 to the center the day the tower carriers become operational. Eatrides said it would take 12-18 months to construct the facility.
In addition to the lump sum, Eatrides said the center would get $1,000 a month or 20 percent of the monthly gross revenues, whichever is greater. Eatrides, who lives on Longboat Key, said his company recently signed an agreement with Longboat Key to construct a cell tower.
Both companies presented photographs of a cell tower that doubled as a flagpole. A flagpole-cell tower at the center would look nothing like the Holmes Beach cell tower, Eatrides said.
The ad hoc committee endorsed the flagpole concept.
Several years ago, the board considered a cell tower offer, but major donors responded their donations would end if a cell tower was built.
In current economic hard times, however, the center faces some financial difficulties. The $4.5 million mortgage on the new facility that opened in 2007 was recently refinanced.
Additionally, because of the mortgage payment, fees were raised on many center programs and some Island residents said they could no longer afford to use the center.