First, families from Starkey Ranch battled the Pasco County School Board over a proposed easement that would grant access to a proposed cell tower.
After they lost that battle, they set their sights on the Pasco County Commission, which was considering the actual lease for the tower, at the county board’s May 23 meeting.
Cell tower opponents wore red, cited research and spoke passionately about their concerns about the potential negative health consequences that could result, if the cell tower was allowed so close to Starkey Ranch K-8. The proposed site is on the south side of the Starkey Ranch District Park’s football and soccer field.
The proposed agreement involved a cell tower ground lease agreement between the county and a company called Vertex, which would have allowed a cell tower on property that’s part of a four-party shared-use agreement between the county, the school board, the county library system and the developer.
Speaker after speaker offered reasons why allowing a cell tower there could be harmful, or, at the very least, risky.
Opponents also submitted a petition signed by hundreds of Starkey Ranch residents.
Some parents threatened to pull their children from the school, if the cell tower went through. Community residents said they’d move away.
Speakers also raised questions about potential negative impacts on property values.
Speaker after speaker after speaker addressed the issue — essentially taking up much of the morning, before the county board broke for lunch.
During the lunch break, Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey conferred with Keith Wiley, director of the county’s parks, recreation and natural resources department.
She said Wiley said an alternative location could be found at the park to accommodate the cell tower.
The county said it would share the proceeds from the leasing agreement with the school district, since that was part of the original plan.
The county said a delay for 120 days also would allow another solicitation for bids to occur, which needs to happen, if the site is shifted. Vertex is the only company that submitted a bid at the first location.
Board members voted 4-0 to approve the delay.
Given the potential for relocating the cell tower, it now appears the issue has been resolved — provided, of course, that actually happens.
If it doesn’t, it’s fairly safe to assume that another large crowd will be back to address the board, and it’s also likely they will have plenty to say.
Published May 31, 2023