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BB cell tower feud cools down

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Bradenton Beach city attorney Ricinda Perry announced Jan. 17 that a contract between the city and the Center for Municipal Solutions was being negotiated to provide CMS co-founder Lawrence “Rusty” Monroe to continue serving the city in the review cell tower applications.

It was a signal that at least one aspect of an ongoing feud was coming to an end. There remains some public opposition to the city’s proposal to have a cell tower installed on city property near the public works building.

At the heart of the feud is Commissioner Ric Gatehouse’s claim that the ordinance prepared by Monroe was ambiguous in nature and financially advantageous to Monroe. He said the agreement was unfair and to the detriment of local businesses.

Gatehouse first called for the ordinance to be repealed, but settled on amending parts of the ordinance. His proposals received a consensus from his fellow commissioners and Gatehouse’s amendments are being addressed by city staff.

The amended ordinance, including Monroe’s CMS contract, could come up for vote as soon as the Feb. 7 commission meeting at Bradenton Beach City Hall.

Monroe initially took exception to Gatehouse’s issues with his ordinance and sent letters to the city objecting to the accusations. He said he no longer wished to work with the city.

Perry’s Jan. 17 announcement that a contract with Monroe and CMS was being negotiated came as a surprise, and very few details were discussed at the city meeting, but Gatehouse later wanted to make it clear the city was not backing away from the changes it wanted.

“We didn’t have a lot of discussion on it because we were still working on the details of the contract,” said Gatehouse.

The commissioner said it was never his intention to have Monroe pull out, but rather to have certain aspects of the ordinance changed to the benefit of the city and local businesses.

“His letter stating he no longer wished to work with the city was his choice,” said Gatehouse. “But he came back to us after the fact and said he was willing to agree to the changes.”

The key amendments Gatehouse sought in the ordinance were to have Monroe’s fee schedule removed and to implement the city’s fee rate.

“That was one of the biggest issues,” said Gatehouse. “When the new ordinance is adopted, anyone wishing to put up an antenna will be subject to the city’s fee schedule, per our building department. It’s not a one-size-fits all situation in Bradenton Beach.”

Gatehouse said another issue in the original ordinance was that an application for an antenna was treated the same no matter the height. The issue came to the forefront when AMI Radio submitted an application for an 8-foot-tall radio antenna.

Gatehouse said it would have cost AMI Radio thousands of dollars to have their application undergo the process in the current ordinance.

“Not every application should be considered the same,” said Gatehouse. “If it’s an 8-foot tower, such as the case for AMI Radio, it shouldn’t cost someone that kind of money when it can come through our own building and planning department. Now applications will be handled according to height, and if someone wants a 40-foot tower, then it falls under the ordinance requirements.”

Gatehouse said several other changes to the ordinance language also are being addressed.

“My intentions were to make these changes and the commission approved those changes,” he said. “Mr. Monroe initially didn’t agree, but he sent us some new proposals to make a compromise.”

Gatehouse said he was never standing in the way of CMS work with the city and is glad things are moving forward in a cooperative effort.

“I think we have reached a compromise that will allow us to move forward in a way that is beneficial to all concerned, but especially to the small businesses of Bradenton Beach.”

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