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Longboat Key Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010 4 years ago

My View: Key is too special for a cell tower

by: Jeremy Whatmough Guest Columnist

Does this special place — Longboat Key — need a 15-story cell tower?

Our papers are regularly reporting on the progress being made to prepare an application to put a 150-foot, 15-story cell tower on Longboat Key. The papers’ editorial pages appear, for the most part, supportive of this initiative.

Think about it. Doesn’t everyone realize how much damage such a tower would cause to the whole ambience and environment of this special island?

I cannot imagine anyone promoting a cell tower on Longboat Key.

As many know, this past summer with the Town Commission’s authorization, a committee formed to review the Vision Plan accepted by the commission in November 2007.

The committee prepared a report, entitled “Longboat Key renewed: A plan to keep Longboat Key invigorated over the next 20 years.” Page 1 of the report says:
“ … numerous factors make Longboat Key a ‘special place’:
• the natural environment
• the visual and physical profile of the built environment
• the amenities for the residents
• the island is more than simply a retirement community
• the people
• the proximity to Sarasota
• the people of Longboat Key are willing to take the financial steps … to enhance the unique character of the island … ”

The second page of the report says: “ … based upon this vision … formulate a plan for the realization and implementation” to:
• retain those features that make the town a special place
• remain a community of high-quality buildings and landscaping
• restore and sustain the historic balance of residential, tourism and commercial
• creatively reinvigorate underutilized commercial areas
• maintain or upgrade the infrastructure
• support restaurants on the island
• protect, preserve and improve the natural environment

A 150-foot cell tower certainly would not support and complement the vision and implementation of the plan. It would make Longboat Key look like an industrial park.

In recent months there has been a lot of activity:

• Sarasota County has prepared a telecommunication ordinance in case the (tower) companies move to Sarasota County and run into anti-tower sentiments.
• Manatee County has turned down application(s) as not being appropriate for residential communities.
• Bradenton Beach is retaining a tower consultant to help write its cell-tower ordinance. (This was after the city denied an application for a tower.)

And, there is a continuing stream of devices coming to market that will eliminate the need for a cell tower here or anywhere.

Does Longboat Key have a cell-phone problem?

The signal here is probably as good as most places. Certainly before the town leaps into approving a stealth cell tower the Town Commission should authorize a professional study. (I understand a south-end supporter of a north-end cell tower has no signal in his home. I guess that means that a 150-foot tower is needed at the south end.) Once a tower is approved, there is no stopping.

What about carriers? Not all are equal — some better, some poorer. Will a 150-foot tower make them all equal and everywhere? Have the people who claim to have problems tried to solve them by changing cell phones or changing carriers? Or by using a femtocell?

What about Longboat Key’s cell-tower ordinance? Although I am not qualified to answer that question, I have been told it is not up to the ordinances currently being written.

What would ever make one promote a cell tower on Longboat Key? The natural environment makes Longboat Key a special place, and the

Vision Plan is to protect, preserve and improve the natural environment.

A cell tower does not belong on this special place. Your commissioner may already know that, but just in case he doesn’t, please tell him.

Jeremy Whatmough is a former Longboat Key mayor and commissioner. He lives across the street from Longboat Island Chapel.


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