- November 16, 2021
Nine cell service poles approved by the Longboat Key Town Commission in February have been placed in the north end of Longboat Key.
Although the new poles themselves have been built, changes to service have not been made as antennas must still be installed and connections made to the network.
“Verizon constantly invests in our network to deliver our customers the quality experience and reliability they expect and deserve,” Verizon corporate spokesperson Andrew Testa wrote in an email. “In this area, we've received permits for solutions as earlier this summer that will expand coverage and add capacity in the area. Construction will begin this summer, and consumers should experience these benefits no later than early 2023.”
The poles came after town commissioners voted in favor of the plans for construction in hopes of alleviating historically spotty service on the northern portion of the island in late February.
After public hearings that ran from November through February, commissioners voted unanimously to approve site-development.
Town specifications set in 2019 called for poles no higher than 35 feet tall along Gulf of Mexico Drive and 25 feet on town rights of way in neighborhoods. The ruling banned large scale macro towers that can stand 150 feet tall.
During approval hearings, Kerry Burrows, a representative of Verizon, told commissioners that the 25 foot and 35 foot would take longer to arrive and set up because of the custom nature of the design to meet town regulations.
All poles have been placed with seven 35-foot poles along Gulf of Mexico Drive, ranging from North Shore Drive to the 5000 block. The 25-foot poles are on Binnacle Point Drive and the other was built at the corner of Broadway Street and Lois Drive in Longboat Beach Village.
The towers were required to be black to match the color and general appearance of streetlights planned for installation as part of the town’s underground utility project. When possible, the poles were hidden among trees to decrease visibility to passers-by.
While residents were eager for improved phone service, complaints during public hearinds centered around the exact placement of the neighborhood poles. Residents vouched for different pole locations due to concerns for aesthetic, visibility and property value decreases.
Operators of MarVista Dockside, for example, were among those supporting the notion of better cell service but argued against the location of a 25-foot pole immediately adjacent to its sign at the corner of Lois Lane and Broadway Street in Longbeach Village.
However, Verizon engineers argued in favor of their placement as moving pole locations would likely require additional poles to be built to fill in the gaps.
While customers of Verizon, including the town itself and its first responders, will initially benefit from the new network on the north end, company officials said their equipment is designed to accept another company’s gear. But, they said, a company such as AT&T or T-Mobile would have to come to a business agreement with Verizon, and the locations of the poles would have to mesh with the other company’s network needs. Potentially, other carriers could make a similar application to the town to erect their own poles, though the town's 60-foot spacing requirement and other specifications would still apply.