AM planners give nod to cell tower plan

Calling all Anna Maria residents with a cellphone: The days of dropped calls and no bars for service are numbered.

If all goes according to schedule, a proposed cell tower could provide signals by Jan. 28, 2015.

That’s according to Kevin Barile of Florida Tower Partners, the company planning the communications tower at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

Barile presented his company’s site plan and a construction timeline to planning and zoning board members at a public hearing July 1.

“And that’s a conservative estimate,” he told the board.

Board members voted unanimously to recommended approval of the site plan to the city commission.

The company will dig down to 27 feet to begin construction of the tower. The base structure will be 10 feet tall and 35 feet by 80 feet. The base will contain tower equipment, anchor the tower and also allow parking underneath.

Landscaping will surround the base and Florida Power and Light has agreed to install its electrical service to the tower underground, Barile said.

The number of parking spaces at city hall, if the plans are approved, will be reduced from 63 to 61, he said.

Verizon Wireless and AT&T are ready to put equipment on the tower once it’s built.

Under Barile’s timeline, the city commission will hold its first public hearing on the site plan July 24, with a final hearing Aug. 14.

If approved, Florida Tower Partners LLC will then seek approvals from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Federal Communications Commission.

Once those are received, Barile estimates construction could begin Dec. 18.

Each service provider would apply for a permit to add its antennae to the tower, he said, and those companies could begin adding equipment to the tower the day it’s ready.

Barile said he sent notices of a balloon test at the tower site to 623 property owners and eight people showed up for the test.

“All asked the same question,” he said. “When’s it going to be ready?”

City planner Alan Garrett said the city has received no complaints or questions about the tower.

At the P&Z hearing, no one spoke in opposition to the site plan.

Florida Tower Partners is paying the city a one-time fee of $350,000 to lease the space for the tower. The city also will receive a percentage of the gross monthly receipts FTP will collect from the carriers.

Mayor SueLynn said the $350,000 tower income is included in her 2014-15 budget proposal, which she plans to present to commissioners July 9, along with suggestions on spending the revenue.

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