Bradenton Beach public works director Tom Woodard stands near where the city would gain covered parking spots if a proposed cell tower agreement moves forward. The location of the tower is expected to be within the storage area at public works. Some have argued parking spaces would be lost due to the tower, but that is not the case, Woodard said. Islander Photo: Mark Young
Bradenton Beach Commissioner Ric Gatehouse won’t have to worry about Center for Municipal Solution’s Lawrence “Rusty” Monroe standing in the way of his proposal to repeal the city’s cell tower ordinance by severing ties with Monroe’s company.
The city “has no need to sever ties with CMS as Mr. Gatehouse recommends, since at this point it apparently has no” agreement, Monroe wrote in a nine-page letter to commissioners.
The letter was in response to Gatehouse’s Sept. 6 criticism of Monroe’s involvement with writing the city’s ordinance.
Gatehouse said the ordinance, adopted in May 2011, was designed to be obstructionist and financially beneficial to Monroe.
Gatehouse said the ordinance “stinks to high heaven,” and “smelled of a backroom deal.”
The commissioner said he would seek to repeal the ordinance and draft a new one, or at least amend the current one.
Monroe said in his letter, dated Sept. 12, that he took umbrage with Gatehouse’s comments, “and the thinly veiled clear implication as regards to the wholesomeness of our intent and motives.”
Monroe said he welcomed constructive criticism, but Gatehouse’s implications crossed a line of integrity. Monroe said his company, “effectively donated” $28,000 to the ordinance process for a three-year agreement that probably would not generate more than $10,000 in revenue.
Monroe said CMS went forward with its work regardless, because it made a commitment to do so and, “simply because it was the right, honorable and ethical thing to do.”
He said it’s a model ordinance that has been accepted in more than 800 communities in 33 states, including Anna Maria.
Gatehouse said the ordinance has been challenged and defeated in other communities through litigation, and he feared Bradenton Beach was setting itself up to violate federal communications laws by adhering to the ordinance, as it is written.
Monroe said that was not true and the Alabama lawsuit Gatehouse brought up at the Sept. 6 city commission meeting did not involve CMS.
“It was simply an issue of whether or not the city’s ordinance was a zoning ordinance or a land-use ordinance, and if it could be enforced,” said Monroe. “We have always told communities it should be a land-use ordinance, but that city insisted on making it a zoning ordinance.”
Monroe said the Alabama ordinance was done against the advice of CMS.
“In short, Mr. Gatehouse is certainly entitled to his own opinions,” he said. “However, he is not entitled to his own facts.”
Monroe said, “It is truly regrettable that Mr. Gatehouse chose to listen to individuals who choose to so blatantly and intentionally misrepresent the facts, do not have the city’s best interests at heart, and have a vested interested in avoiding reasonable regulations intended to protect the public safety, welfare and interest” of the city.
The back-and-forth cell tower argument began to get contentious Aug. 16 when Scenic Waves Partnership chair Carl Parks sent an email to commissioners titled “I smell a rat.”
In that email, Parks implied someone with the city was being paid off by ignoring the Monroe ordinance requirements. As it turned out, the city had not taken action to trigger those requirements, according to city attorney Ricinda Perry, but Parks has been an outspoken proponent of the Monroe ordinance.
He also said the Bradenton Beach ordinance was meant to be difficult, as Parks is an opponent of a cell tower in the city.
Monroe said he is not affiliated with Parks and that Parks speaks only for himself. He also said the CMS supports the cellular communications issues in the city and the ordinance clearly reflects such.
Monroe said, contrary to Gatehouse’s implications, he is not in partnership with Parks, “Neither I, nor anyone associated with CMS has any kind of relationship with any resident or group of residents in the city. Nor have I ever expressed an opinion of any kind to anyone in the city regarding the desirability of cell towers in Bradenton Beach.”
Monroe went on to say that he has not returned Parks’ emails.
“Mr. Parks’ opinion of cell towers is his, not mine,” he said. “The quote attributed to Mr. Parks about having worked long and hard to keep a cell tower from being built … may be his impression of what was done, but it’s neither accurate nor factual. We have never worked with anyone to keep towers out.”
Gatehouse was expected to respond to Monroe’s letter Sept. 26, when his proposal to address a new ordinance was on the city commission agenda. However, the commissioner missed that meeting due to illness.Anna Maria property owner Larry Kerr, who lives in South Carolina, spoke at the Sept. 19 final hearing on the 2012-13 budget. He praised commissioners and city treasurer Diane Percycoe for a wise use of funds. To the right of Kerr are Commissioners SueLynn and John Quam. Some commissioners said it was the first time in their memory a member of the public spoke at a budget hearing. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin