MANATEE COUNTY — Two East County communities are continuing battles against the development of cellular communications towers in their neighborhoods.
A proposal by Vertex Development to construct a tower in River Club is now moving to federal court after Vertex and the county failed to have a successful mediation meeting earlier this month.
Vertex also has submitted responses to questions about its application for a tower in Palm-Aire. The application now will be reviewed according to Manatee County’s new ordinance.
After a mediation conference April 2, Vertex and Manatee County reached an impasse, according to a mediation report from the U.S. District Court in Tampa dated April 7.
Vertex attorney Lauralee Westine confirmed her client is proceeding with an appeal and will follow the proper course in federal court.
Both parties are supposed to now file their motions for summary judgment by April 30.
County attorney Rob Eschenfeld said the county is on solid legal footing and is ready to defend its case as required.
“From the county’s position, even if the county doesn’t prevail at the trial court level, it will pursue all of its appellate remedies including to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court,” Eschenfelder said.
The lawsuit is being handled in-house and therefore will not incur any additional costs to taxpayers. Additionally, the Telecommunications Act does not require a losing local government to pay attorneys fees or any monetary damages. The court’s sole jurisdiction in this type of case is purely to decide whether a local government has complied with federal law, Eschenfelder said.
Vertex Development on April 7 submitted a response letter to the county providing more information to county staff regarding its existing application for the development of a 150-foot flagpole style cell tower at 5625 Whitfield Ave.
The application now will be reviewed using a new cell tower ordinance approved by the Manatee commissioners Feb. 23.
Palm-Aire residents remain hopeful the new ordinance will protect them from approval of the proposed tower.
“We are quite confident that the new land code will protect Palm-Aire and all Manatee County neighborhoods from these intrusive towers being situated in the center of their residential communities,” said Deborah Chapman, founder of the Palm-Aire Homeowners Against the Tower organization.
Chapman also said there are more suitable sites for the structure within close proximity to Palm-Aire as well as an existing tower along Lockwood Ridge Road that can accommodate another carrier.
Westine said Vertex is proceeding with the application, and the new ordinance required additional explanation of the site-selection process based on the new preferred/non-preferred zone districts.
“Vertex was not required to modify its application as a result of the new ordinance,” she said.
Once county planning staff deems Vertex’s application complete, it will go before a county hearing officer.
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