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East County Wednesday, Sep. 23, 2009 8 years ago

County considers new tower restrictions

by: Pam McTeer

PALM-AIRE — Palm-Aire residents celebrated a small victory Sept. 22 as the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners agreed to look into its policies for allowing cell phone towers in residential communities.

Commissioners unanimously directed staff to bring back code changes to modify the county’s Land Development Code to place cell phone towers on government and non-residential land first. Residential properties would be used only as a last resort for placement.

If a change is adopted, it may impact an application submitted Sept. 21 by Vertex Development for a new 150-foot tower in Palm-Aire, county staff said.

“We’ll take the small, baby victories we can get,” said Palm-Aire resident Deborah Chapman, who has organized a group of residents called Homeowners Against the Tower to fight the cause. “They are taking a step to change the code, and that’s good for all of Manatee County.”

Manatee codes already state a preference for placing cell phone towers outside residential areas and set other guidelines, but the new code would give the county’s policy more teeth.

Palm-Aire residents began to rally against the proposed cell phone tower, which would be located at 5625 Whitfield Ave., after Vertex held a neighborhood meeting Sept. 8.

The Palm-Aire Board of Directors actually signed a lease with Vertex in December 2008, but the majority of residents were unaware of the deal until the meeting held by Vertex.

Palm-Aire Country Club General Manager John Costello said country club leaders did not think the tower would impact the community negatively. The site is adjacent to Palm-Aire’s golf course maintenance facility and surrounded by tall trees.

“Our board of directors did their due diligence and went through all the necessary steps with the developer and decided it would not be a detriment to the community in any way and decided to move forward with the project,” Costello said.

The tower would bring in revenue for the club while providing better cell phone coverage for the community’s residents.

Residents such as Chapman, and the more than 40 who attended Tuesday’s commission meeting, disagree with Palm-Aire’s board, arguing a tower would be a blight to the community and adversely affect property values, among other issues.

“I’m a real estate agent, and I know from taking people out (it will affect property values),” resident Carol White said. “I can’t understand where they are putting it,” she said. “It’s going to stick way up above the tree line.”

Lauralee Westine, the attorney representing Vertex, said the cell tower planned for Palm-Aire is similar in design to the one proposed at River Club’s golf course. The 150-foot towers will not have any arms and all antennas and cables will be contained within the tower, she said.

River Club’s cell tower is scheduled to go to the Manatee County Planning Commission in November and county commissioners in December.

Contact Pam McTeer at [email protected].

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