+ Place Longboat Key ahead of tomorrow’s technology trends
Who wants an unsightly cell tower on beautiful Longboat Key?
Recent Observer editorials suggest there are alternatives. There are. Smaller technology exists. But, is this “skin deep” analysis the limit to this topic? There are a number of considerations when making technology decisions. Cell-tower obtrusiveness is one. There are others that go beyond cosmetics.
Recall back to 2011, when large and small cities alike scrambled to become Google’s first fiber-optic infrastructure. The city of Sarasota’s mayor hopped into Mote Marine’s shark tank to attract Google executives’ attention. Why do you suppose mayors went to such great lengths? Because technology is important to a community. As the Key strategizes about its future in areas such as tourism and building stock, consider these facts about technology: 87% of the world’s population are currently mobile subscribers; 300,000 phone apps have been developed in the past three years; there are almost as many mobile-cellular subscriptions as people in the world; mobile-cellular penetration rates stand at 96% globally (128% in developed countries; and 89% in developing countries).
If technology is not a priority in the town’s zoning code and in planning sessions, not only will future needs of the residents be neglected, the very Longboat Key landscape everyone wishes to protect is jeopardized.
Our Longboat Key community must balance the needs of technology-consumers with the industry’s providers. Section 704(a) of the 1996 Telecommunications Act states a local government may not unreasonably discriminate among providers of functionally equivalent services, may not regulate in a manner that prohibits or has the effect of prohibiting the provision of personal wireless services, must act on applications within a reasonable time period, and must make any denial of application in writing supported by evidence in a written record. One way many municipalities comply with the act is to impose stringent zoning rules with setback limitations, tower-height regulations, etc. Wireless service providers (WSPs) are adept at maneuvering among zoning laws. The strict zoning approach usually does not eliminate unsightly cell towers and unfortunately locates them in areas, which compromise their effectiveness.
A better solution is for the Key to include technology as a part of its overall zoning plan and partner with WSPs. This approach anticipates infrastructure congestion and right of way purchases and develops a technology strategy for growth and quality. The result is an improved technology experience and improved residential safety.
To say a cell tower is ugly is the first step. Planning and partnering will preserve the island’s beauty, and place Longboat Key ahead of tomorrow’s technology trends.