The whirring commercial air conditioner attached to a brick building on the opposing side of Judy Rousseau’s fence is loud enough to drown out the sound of a fountain on her lanai.
“As you can hear, it’s kind of annoying,” said the Siesta Isles resident.
Rousseau said she has avoided her backyard since September when Verizon Florida removed the 7-foot-tall tree growing behind its telecommunications building, which backs up to Rousseau’s backyard.
“I got home from work and I noticed it was brighter in my house,” she said.
A Verizon representative contacted Rousseau with news that the company would plant replacement fauna to block out the lights from the building and to serve as a noise buffer, after Rousseau sent a letter to the president of the company. She has yet to learn when the fauna will be planted.
Verizon removed Brazilian pepper trees, an invasive species, in September with the intention of building an 8-foot fence. The company removed the trees after another resident was concerned about it encroaching on their yard, said Sarasota County Zoning Administrator Brad Bailey. But the fence would have violated a special exception Sarasota County commissioners approved in 1972, which required a 75% opaque texture on the buffer.
“They had to go back to the drawing board; people need to know these things take time,” said code-enforcement officer John Lally.
The Verizon representative told county staff he is working with a local nursery to replace the buffer with native species and has voluntarily agreed to plant them within 60 days, Bailey said.
When Rousseau bought the property 12 years ago, she thought the switch station would add privacy to her backyard, because there are no windows on the backside of the building, and it generates little vehicle traffic.
“I realized it was there, but you couldn’t see it or hear it,” she said.
The Siesta Isles Association asked for a sight buffer, among other stipulations, when it agreed to endorse General Telephone Company’s plan to build a switch station on the parcel in 1972. The Sarasota County Planning Commission recommended the County Commission deny the request for a special exception for commercial activity on a parcel zoned for residential development.
The firm chose the location because of its nearby easement that housed submarine cables connecting the mainland to the island, according to the special exception request.