Anna Maria cell tower could be operational in January

After nearly 12 years of chatter, a cell tower in Anna Maria could be a reality as early as January.

Kevin Barile of Florida Tower Partners LLC, the company contracted by the city to build the tower at city hall, updated commissioners on his progress at their June 26 meeting.

“Everything is going well,” Barile said.

He showed commissioners a change to the tower base, altering the dimensions but maintaining the same coverage and height.

He said the change will better accommodate the four carriers he expects to occupy the tower when it becomes operational. Barile said Verizon and AT&T have committed to leases, while negotiations with two more carriers are ongoing.

He also presented a revised timeline to commissioners, including Jan. 28, 2015, as the target for completion.

The site plan for the tower was to be presented to the planning and zoning board July 1. Following that board’s review, the site plan goes before the commission for approval.

Once the commission approves, Florida Towers will submit its plan to the building department for a construction permit.

Barile estimated that once the required permits, including those from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Federal Communications Commission, among several others, are received, construction should begin in mid-December.

Carriers could begin adding equipment on completion, which will trigger his company to make a lump-sum payment to the city of $350,000.

Verizon and AT&T are anxious for the tower to be completed, Barile said. “They’re calling me every week for an update. I tell them everything is proceeding as planned, it just takes time to get all the permits. They are very anxious to get going.”

Commissioners then addressed the possible lawsuits that have been noticed to the city.

They unanimously passed a resolution making June 26 the last possible date for property owners to apply for a variance to the living-area ratio ordinance adopted in June 2013.

The city already has seven letters of intent to file a claim under the Bert Harris Property Rights Act of 1995, city attorney Jim Dye said. The resolution “closes the door” on future letters to file a related claim, Dye said.

Dye explained that the city must first attempt to settle the claim through negotiation with the property owner.

He plans to meet individually with each commissioner and explain the details of the claims.

While he said he “can’t act as the go-between” among commissioners, he can present an overall strategy for each claim to the commission after his talks.

Dye said the usual way to deal with a Bert Harris claim is for the city to issue a variance, but commissioners already have denied a variance to Mark McClean and Kathy Hayes, he noted.

In preparation for the July 4 weekend, Mayor SueLynn said Waste Management Inc. is providing the city additional garbage cans for placement at beach access locations. WMI will not charge for the extra cans or pickup, she said.

The city also will post a sign at the city limits by July 3 stating “No Fireworks,” the mayor said. Additionally, Sgt. Paul Davis, head of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office substation in Anna Maria, has extra deputies scheduled for duty that weekend.

“You hope you’ve got all your bases covered, but we’ll see,” SueLynn said. “If people have a problem with rowdy behavior, fireworks or trash, please call the sheriff’s office,” she urged.

The mayor also reminded commissioners that the first budget meeting for the 2014-15 fiscal year is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 9, at Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

Commissioners continued the second reading of an amendment to the sign ordinance that allows property owners to apply for additional signage at their property. The amendment was continued to 6 p.m. Thursday, July 10, at city hall.

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