A debate about reception and cellular towers echoes through Town Hall whenever the word “telecommunications” appears on an agenda, despite Town Manager Dave Bullock’s attempts to differentiate between the two.
At the Longboat Key Town Commission regular meeting Monday night, Bullock tried again to separate the issues.
He explained the agenda item on first reading removes the regulation of personal wireless service facilities and places it in the town’s land-development regulations instead. The town is trying to amend this portion of the Comp Plan before a deadline from the state expires Nov. 18, which would force the town to start over.
“This is not an ordinance or code language that deals with where to place facilities,” said Bullock, who explained that ordinance will come before the commission in November or December.
The clarification didn’t help.
Village resident Gene Jaleski came to the podium with a PowerPoint presentation titled “NO Cell Towers on Longboat Key,” and the reception issue continued to work its way into the discussion.
Some commissioners worried about approving such changes before they review the actual ordinance.
Commissioners eventually approved the changes on first reading by a 6-1 vote, but not before entering into a discussion on how to resolve the Key’s reception problem.
Commissioners asked Bullock to comment on meetings he’s held with both Verizon Wireless and AT&T representatives. Bullock also held a meeting last month with Simon Platt and Michael Tattersall about a small-cell alternative for the Key.
“I thought the direction you received was the town was going to do an in-depth analysis and we would receive a report from you on your findings,” Duncan said.
Bullock responded by explaining he already reported on his findings with Verizon Wireless. On Monday, he went over his discussion with an AT&T representative.
Asked by Commissioner Terry Gans if he planned on meeting with Platt and Tattersall again, Bullock said,
“We talked about where the industry is going and I would like to get his (Tattersall’s) list of contacts.”
Gans pressed again, taking a different approach.
“Is it fair to say you as staff are investigating and using energy and trying to learn as much as we can about all (cellular tower) alternatives?” Gans asked.
Bullock responded by saying, “I want to be very careful.”
“We are bringing you forward an ordinance that regulates wireless facilities; it’s not a code that makes signals stronger or provides you with streaming data,” Bullock said. “The other issue is what role the town may or may not want to play in influencing and incentivizing (carriers). Many communities provide no role.”
The commission then moved on after a small speech from Mayor Jim Brown.
“We all want to have better cell service,” Brown said. “I just don’t know how we get to the decision.”