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Our View

 

Date: November 20, 2013
by: Observer Staff

 
 

They finally did it.

After more than 11 years of dancing around and delaying a decision, Longboat Key town commissioners finally took a stand: No cell towers on Longboat Key.

That is, unless there is never another alternative. Which basically means no cell towers.

This has been one of the Key’s most contentious issues of the past two decades. The mere mention of erecting a 150-foot tower anywhere on the Key triggered almost as much emotion — for and against — as the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s now-scuttled $400 million expansion and renovation plans.

Indeed, the issue also has been the ultimate conundrum of government policy — one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Everyone on Longboat Key would love better cellular reception on the Key. But virtually no one really wants a 150-foot cell tower near his property, even if the tower were disguised as a pine tree.

So these two polar-opposite positions created political quick sand for the town commissioners. None of them wanted to try walking through the mud pit by voting to ease the town’s restrictions on cell towers. They knew it would sink their political careers, even with the large number of residents who support a tower because they say the Key needs to move into the modern communications era.

Bob’s Boathouse effect
A 150-foot tower doesn’t fit on Longboat Key. No matter where someone suggested a location on the island, it’s virtually impossible to avoid a tower negatively affecting neighbors.

It reminds us of Bob’s Boathouse on South Tamiami Trail in Sarasota. The marina and restaurant recently re-opened in a location where about 20 single-family residences sit next to and across Phillippi Creek from the boathouse.

Like the cell tower, Bob’s Boathouse is becoming a classic confrontation over private-property rights — in this case, whether it is abusing those rights.

The boathouse’s location is zoned for commercial use, including the operation of its restaurant. To make the boathouse and restaurant a thriving, profitable venture, the owners are providing live music at the restaurant up to 10 p.m.

The neighbors are livid. The noise and lights from the restaurant are disturbing the neighbors’ peaceful, noise-free, light-free lifestyle.

So the conundrum is this: The boathouse is operating legally. But it’s harming its neighbors.

The rule of private-property rights is this: You have the right to use your property as you wish, but not if that use harms your neighbor. If you operate a chemical manufacturing plant on the river, you can’t discharge your harmful waste downstream where it harms others.

This effect has always been the concern with a cell tower. While it would improve the lives of the many, it would be at the expense of the few who lived around it. Their property (values) would suffer. Just as the residences are now suffering around Bob’s Boathouse.

Free-market failure?
Many Longboaters have believed the town’s poor cellular reception is a matter for the town government to fix. But it’s not. The town’s role is to create a legal framework that protects private-property rights and the welfare of its citizens.

And in that vein, the town’s policy and ordinances up to now have limited cell towers to institutional properties, such as churches and the town’s facilities. And each of these is just about within spitting distances of residential properties.

It’s an unsolvable dilemma. Residents don’t want a cell tower in their back yard. And cellular providers don’t want to invest in alternative receptors and boosters. There isn’t enough cell usage and demand on the island to warrant the investment.

Some might call this a free-market failure. Not really. It’s about economics and opportunity. It’s a matter of whether anyone sees the opportunity for a fair profit in filling the cellular vacuum on Longboat Key. Is there an entrepreneur willing to invest in the infrastructure (i.e. digital antenna system, DAS) and sell it door to door to Longboat Key cellular losers for a higher price than what consumers are paying now for lower-quality service?

Either that, or wait for the next generation of technology. For now, the market is choosing the latter.
While that may be a trifle annoying for a while longer, it’s better than a 150-foot tower and all of the strife that would bring.

+ Kudos to Kiwanis
Congratulations to the Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key, producers of another successful Longboat Key Gourmet Lawn Party.

Old-timers remember it as the St. Jude Gourmet Luncheon. But either way, it always serves as the one event on Longboat Key that brings residents together, not just for fun, food and drink, but also for comaraderie and conversation.

It’s the one event of the year that demonstrates how Longboat Key is much more than a town. It’s a great community full of generous, giving people.

Cheers to Kiwanis for bringing Longboaters together.

BELL CURVE, continued
Last week’s commentary, “In denial of the bell curve,” triggered responses via email, phone calls and in person.

All but two supported the premises that power-hungry politicians over the past 110 years, by way of using “the law,” have shifted the nation away from the Founders’ principles of individual freedom; and that parents and state-run public education have failed three generations of youth in teaching them the differences between and consequences of freedom and servitude.

One of our favorite responses came from Longboat Key resident Michael Hodges, author of the website “The Grandfather Economic Report” (grandfather-economic-report.com). Hodges’ site is a trove of alarming economic data that should incite Americans — to revolt against and reverse the government trends that are destroying future generations’ standard of living.

One of those graphs is reprinted above.

There is a lot to absorb in that graph. But the key data are in the two colored fever lines. In 1929, the nation’s private sector accounted for nearly 90% of the nation’s economy. But ever since then, government spending has been on a nearly unbroken rising tide, to the point that it now accounts for 50% of the nation’s economy.

Now here’s the alarming point of that: Government spending does not create or produce wealth; it transfers wealth out of the producers’ pockets, typically to give unearned benefits to others. When the government’s share of the economy surpasses that of the private sector, the U.S. economy will no longer generate enough wealth to grow; living standards will decline.

Check out Hodges’ website. It may spur you to action.

 

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