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Date of Issue: December 15, 2005

Verizon proposes Anna Maria cell tower

Rising high in Anna Maria
A cell phone tower like this one in Holmes Beach could soon grace the Anna Maria skyline if Verizon gains city approval for such a tower. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

It may have taken just a bit more than four years, but as Verizon promised in 2001, the company is back in Anna Maria, this time with a proposal for a 125-foot-high cell tower in the city.

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn stressed, however, that Verizon has not made any formal application under the city's cell tower - don't call them cell towers, call them personal wireless services facilities - ordinance adopted in 2003 after Verizon tried unsuccessfully to place a cell tower atop Roser Memorial Community Church in October 2001.

After that effort was thwarted by citizen outrage and the church backing out of the deal, Verizon officials gave the Arnold Schwarenegger reply, "We'll be back."

And they are.

Building Official Kevin Donohue confirmed that Verizon representatives along with attorney Laura Bellflower met with him Dec. 7 to discuss "informally" placement and construction of a cell tower.

Nothing was decided at that meeting, said SueLynn, although Verizon indicated it had four locations in mind: Roser Church, the Anna Maria Island Community Center, city hall and the city public works garage.

The mayor said the city may have some control over any cell tower application for the three public properties, but any application for a cell tower at Roser Church, which is private property, would only have to meet the requirements of the ordinance.

"They really just wanted to find out how receptive the city would be to the idea," SueLynn said.

Bellflower and Verizon wanted a direct meeting with her to discuss specifics, but the mayor replied that if Verizon wants the tower on public property, the company should deal directly with the city commission.

"I can't speak on behalf of the commission. They need to talk to commissioners to find out if they are receptive," she said, indicating it would likely not be until January that any cell tower request could be on a commission agenda.

"At this point, it's just talk about a tower, but it would appear Verizon is determined to build one in the city," the mayor observed.

Following Verizon's failed 2001 effort to get a cell tower in Anna Maria, the city learned that federal law would not allow a city to prohibit construction of a cell phone tower, but the city did have the ability to regulate its location, height and appearance. Those criteria were established in Anna Maria's cell tower ordinance passed in November 2003.