Bradenton Beach passes first reading of cell tower lease

Negotiating politics is rarely a straight path and more often a long and winding road, but Bradenton Beach officials, at their Aug. 15 city meeting, turned another corner in what has been a long haul to improve cellphone service.

City attorney Ricinda Perry presented a five-year land lease agreement with the option to extend the lease for nine successive five-year periods to commissioners on behalf of Ridan Industries, the company spearheading the cellular communications tower at the city’s public works facility on Church Avenue.

Perry said the land-lease ordinance was going to be presented later in the process when Ridan approaches the city with a land development application, but Ridan “requested that it was presented beforehand so they can begin negotiations with their sub leases for the tower.”

Former Commissioner Janie Robertson, who recently declared as a commission candidate in the November election, asked when commissioners intend to address the city charter’s height restrictions.

“I don’t remember that ever happening,” said Robertson. “When attempting to make a change to the charter, there are other procedural issues to address.”

Kevin Barile, from Ridan, said the city has exemptions in its charter for each of its zoning districts and certain items like bell towers, church towers and cell towers fall under those exemptions.

However, city planner Alan Garrett was asked to look into Robertson’s query and Mayor John Shaughnessy assured her that proper procedures would be followed.

Robertson also referenced the city’s recent passage of an agreement with Ridan to fund the $30,000 testing of the city’s old fueling site, which also is the location of the proposed cell tower.

The city took the necessary steps to have the old gas storage tanks filled with cement some 30 years ago, but the permit was never closed and the original samples are nowhere to be found.

The city must close out that permit by testing the site and cleaning it if necessary. Initial samplings of the site show no contamination, but testing and sample drilling is projected to cost the city $30,000.

Ridan agreed to pay the city for the testing and then deduct it from the $350,000 promised to the city once the cell tower is operational.

Robertson wanted to know if the city would have to pay that bill if the cell tower project somehow fails to be completed.

Barile said that question was easy to answer.

“If the tower is not built, basically we get stuck with the bill,” said Barile. “The agreement states that the $30,000 will be deducted from the rent payment once rent payments start. If the rent doesn’t start, then there is nothing to deduct from.”

Barile said it would be no different from the other $40,000 Ridan has already invested into the project.

“It’s called dead-site costs,” he said. “You invest money into a site as the process moves forward and, if it doesn’t happen, you basically lose those site costs.”

Commissioner Ric Gatehouse moved to approve the first reading of the ordinance, which was seconded by Vice Mayor Ed Straight. The motion passed 4-0 with Commissioner Gay Breuler absent with excuse.

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