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Council approves cell tower on Donax

By Staff | Feb 2, 2011

After determining a more appropriate location for a 149-foot telecommunications tower within the Donax Street Wastewater Reclamation Facility, councilors unanimously approved a resolution to grant permission to Verizon Wireless to construct a tower which will have the appearance of a flagpole during Tuesday’s City Council meeting,

Whether or not that “flagpole” will fly the American flag around the clock, be raised and lowered on a daily basis or during special occasions only has yet to be determined.

As part of their development permit application, Verizon Wireless had been seeking to erect a cell phone tower with attached antenna arrays with an ability to carry two additional telecommunications service providers at the easternmost facility on Sanibel. The proposed support structure for the tower would include a Base Transceiver Station connected by cables to the antenna arrays, an emergency power generator and a 25-foot by 75-foot fenced area to contain the tower and ancillary equipment.

Back in December, when attorney Laura Belflower (representing Verizon Wireless) introduced the application before the council, a group of residents from neighborhoods bordering the Donax Street site — previously determined appropriate for a cell tower — balked at the notion of adding the structure in close proximity to their residences.

Since that meeting, Verizon Wireless and city officials met and decided to move the proposed location of the tower, from the northeast corner of the site to the southwest corner, bordering Donax Street. That move seemed to have appeased some of the concerns raised by citizens during their prior presentation.

“It’s a good compromise,” said resident John Morse, who thinks that Sanibel will benefit from the tower with improved cell phone coverage.

According to Belflower, who had submitted a number of proposed designs for the tower, including samples of other towers camouflaged to resemble a flagpole or pine tree, suggested that the city could fly a flag as it desired. If they chose to fly it continuously, etiquette would require the flag to be illuminated at night, which might interfere with the city’s strict exterior lighting regulations.

All audience members who attended Tuesday’s session favored the flagpole design, but differed whether a flag should be flown daily, occasionally or continuously.

“A flagpole without a flag is just a pole,” added Morse.

Following public comment, the council weighed in with their thoughts.

“According to my scoreboard, the tree (design) is out,” said Marty Harrity, who noted that he would prefer flying a flag during holidays or other special occasions.

Fellow councilman Jim Jennings suggested he would like to see the flag be raised an lowered each day, an opinion shared by Peter Pappas.

“In this case, we are not judges… we are stewards,” he stated. “The community has spoken.”

Mayor Kevin Ruane, who praised the efforts of city employees and Verizon Wireless representative on reaching a viable compromise, said that he favored flying the flag during daylight hours. However, his motion to approve the resolution included a request for the city to gather more information regarding the cell tower design that would conceal the flagpole pulley mechanism inside of the structure. He noted that the council could determine the duration the flag would be flown at a later date.

Jennings seconded Ruane’s motion, which passed 4-0, with Vice Mayor Mick Denham absent from the meeting.

Councilors also took time to congratulate Doug Congress on his appointment to the City Council.

The council had been looking at an election on March 1 to fill two seats, currently occupied by Jennings and Papppas. However, only Jennings sought re-election.

Congress was the sole qualified applicant to register with the city for this year’s municipal election, nullifying the need to have an election. He and Jennings will be sworn into office on Tuesday, March 15.

Council also unanimously approved a resolution declaring the cancellation of this year’s election.