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Jennings shares cell tower discussion with Planning Commission

By Staff | Dec 15, 2010

During his City Council liaison report, Jim Jennings brought the Planning Commission up to speed on Sanibel’s latest hot topic: the proposed telecommunications tower to be constructed on city property on Donax Street.

Last week, councilors considered a resolution that would allowed Verizon Wireless to install a 149-foot telecommunications tower at the Donax Street Wastewater Reclamation Facility. More than two dozen citizens, a majority of which were residents of the neighborhood adjacent to the proposed site, spoke out against the resolution.

“We had a pretty interesting public comment period,” Jennings said during his report. “A lot of citizens brought up some important points and had some very valid concerns.”

Among the concerns raised by the audience gathered at MacKenzie Hall on Dec. 7 was the visual impact of the tower, height, radiation and why Verizon Wireless had not completed all of the elements of their application.

The proposed telecommunication support structure includes an equipment shelter to house a Base Transceiver Station, connected via cables to the antenna arrays, an emergency power generator and a 25-foot by 75-foot fenced-in area to contain the tower and ancillary equipment installed on city-owned land located at the Donax Street facility, which previous councils had approved as “a telecommunications tolerant site.”

Because the application has not submitted all required final engineered construction plans and certifications, the city’s Planning Department staff recommended 36 conditions which must be met prior to approval of the development permit. They include requirements for color of the structure, compliance with FIRM base flood elevation standards, lighting and signage limitations, design and safety standards, vegetation buffer and compliance with Federal Communications Commission regulations for non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation and radio frequency emission levels.

“People have got to be sympathetic to those people who live on Donax,” said Paul Reynolds.

At the end of the meeting, council voted unanimously to table discussions on the subject until their Feb. 1, 2011 meeting, after additional information could be collected.

Jennings also told the commission that he suggested the city investigate the possibility or locating a cell tower at the newly-acquired Lighthouse Park property.

Last week, City Attorney Ken Cuyler noted that the 44-acre parcel was still under control by the United States Coast Guard, so the city would need to conduct more investigation into whether that property would be appropriate.

“Certainly there’s got to be a place somewhere on those 44 acres to put a cell tower,” added Jennings.

Commissioner Dr. Phillip Marks wondered if antennas could be attached to the lighthouse itself, canceling the need for a separate tower. Planning Director Jimmy Jordan explained that suggestion was unlikely due to the lighthouse being on the National Register of Historic Places. He was also unsure if adding a telecommunications tower on that parcel would be an appropriate purpose for the site.

In other business, commissioners voted 7-0 to cancel their next session, which had been scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 28. They will conduct their next meeting on Jan. 11, 2011 starting at 9 a.m.