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Manatee County Plans to Change Cell Tower Code... Again


MANATEE COUNTY -- Palm Aire and River Club residents are voicing concerns about proposed modifications to the new cell tower code (LDC 704.59) which are going before the Manatee BOCC on Thursday (9/2) for a final vote.
BACKGROUND: Almost one year ago Palm Aire residents went before the County Commissioners, after learning of a proposed tower for the middle of their neighborhood, and asked that they change the Land Development Code to restrict cell tower installations in residential communities.  The Commissioners unanimously agreed and this new code went into affect in February 2010. The community applauded the tighter restrictions of the new telecommunications code, especially since they apply to the pending Palm Aire tower application.  Now, six months later, it appears those restrictions are being diluted and residents are perplexed as to the catalyst for such modifications.
CURRENT PROPOSAL: County staff has proposed changes that will eliminate what many believe to be one of the strongest residential protections of the new code, namely the part that requires the tower company to provide an affidavit stating that placement on alternative sites would have the effect of preventing cellular service. This is seen as a key component of the tighter restrictions. (The proposed changes are attached in the pdf file.  The modifications to the "Siting Preferences" section are the ones the public does not want to see implemented.)
RESIDENT REACTION: For over a week now, Palm Aire and River Club residents have attempted to get county staff to explain the rationale for these changes, but to no avail.  Neither community, when both have been integrally involved in the cell tower issue, was informed of the proposed changes and they only found out about the Thursday vote by happenstance.  The ordinance modification sailed through the Planning Commission on 8/12 with no public commentary... and no public awareness of the scheduled vote.
Residents, via phone calls and emails, are asking the County Commissioners to vote down the changes to the "Siting Preferences" section of the code, and/or are requesting a public input meeting to discuss the edits.  Some residents plan to speak at Thursday's BOCC as well, though the hearing has been scheduled as the last item of the day, thus making it difficult for people to attend.
Palm Aire residents are concerned that these new changes will apply to their pending tower application, making it easier for the tower company to gain approval from the Planning Department staff.  They are hoping the Commissioners will once again show their commitment to keeping these industrial structures off of residentially zoned land by voting against the proposed changes to the "Siting Preferences" section of the tower code.
Deborah Chapman
Palm Aire Homeowners Against the Tower

Planning Department personnel involved in the tower code edits:
    Sharon Tarman, Planner  sharon.tarman@mymanatee.org;  748-4501 x 6863
    John Osborne, VP Planning Dept  john.osborne@mymanatee.org; 748-4501 x6825
Deputy County Attorney responsible for drafting and modifying the tower code:
    Sarah Schenk  sarah.schenk@mymanatee.org;  748-4501 x3750
Palm Aire contact: Deborah Chapman Stop.tower@gmail.com or 351-8540.
River Club contact: Greg Gallagher ggallag1@tampabay.rr.com 360-1732



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