A request for a 155-foot cell tower in an Odessa neighborhood has met with resistance from area residents and has received a recommendation for denial from a divided planning board.
An attorney for the applicants, Joan E. Patterson/Anthemnet and Verizon Wireless, told the planning board that the request meets the requirements spelled out in county regulations and asked the board to agree with the planning staff’s recommendation for approval.
The application called for a 155-foot pole, including a 150-foot monopine, which resembles a pine tree, as well as a 5-foot lightning rod on a property at the terminus of Roland Drive, about 600 feet north of Balough Road, in Odessa.
Neighbors made their objections loud and clear during a Nov. 16 public hearing before the Pasco County Planning Commission.
Residents expressed fears about potential negative impacts on their health and also on their property values.
They said the cell tower would become an eyesore in an area that boasts natural beauty.
One speaker told the planning board that if a cell tower must be approved, it would be better to have one of a different design.
He voiced concerns about the monopine’s materials deteriorating and shedding over time, posing environmental risk to people, property, wetlands and a lake.
Others expressed worries about the wear and tear that will be created as trucks come to the site to build and maintain the cell tower.
David Goldstein, Pasco’s chief assistant county attorney, told the audience that the Federal Communications Commission has preempted local governments from regulating cell towers based upon potential harmful effects on people, plants or animals from radiofrequency emissions.
The planning board’s role, he said, is to look at it from a land use and zoning perspective and not to consider any potential health effects.
Planning Commissioner Jon Moody was receptive to the argument that materials shedding from a monopine could have negative impacts. He called for approval of the request, but said the cell tower should be a monopole, made of galvanized steel.
While not being able to produce hard evidence, other speakers told the planning board they fear the presence of a cell tower in their neighborhood would deter buyers, should they ever want to sell their homes.
Planning Commissioner Jaime Girardi raised concerns about placing a cell tower in a residential neighborhood, and, in general, about the increasing proliferation of cell towers.
“Are we heading down the path that we’re going to have a cell tower every mile in the county?” Girardi asked.
Bill Compton, a technical expert for the applicant, said there are areas where the sites are needed that close together based on demand and cell tower capacity.
Girardi said he’s also concerned about this request because “it’s very close to existing residential in the area,” noting the tower would be just 100 feet from the property line.
“That’s bothersome to me,” he said. Girardi added: “I think we’re headed down a dangerous path here, if you need one of these things every mile.”
Planning Commissioner Derek Pontlitz, who voted in favor of the request, said today’s technology demands the installation of cell towers to support it.
Planning Commissioner Richard Tonello asked if the roads leading to the site will allow the equipment needed to carry the necessary materials to build the tower.
Representatives for the applicant said the roads are sufficient to gain access and any damage that occurs to the roads during the construction phase will be repaired.
The attorney for the applicant also noted that if any damage to the monopine’s fronds occurs, the applicant is required to provide repairs within 15 days.
Planning Commission Chairman Charles Grey asked if the applicant would be willing to build a bell tower, rather than a monopole or monopine.
The attorney responded that the clients support a monopole or monopine, not a bell tower structure.
Goldstein asked: “Is it because of a technical reason or cost issue?”
The attorney said cost is a factor, but deferred to her expert regarding the technical question.
Compton said the types of structures used are becoming a bigger issue as different frequency bands come out.
Grey told his colleagues that he would not support the request.
“We do have a responsibility, as a board, to try to protect the people that live in that area.
“The other thing that I don’t like is that I don’t like it when a company comes and says, ‘We don’t want to do that because it’s going to cost more money.’ How it affects the neighbors is more important to me than whether it’s going to cost more money.
“I’m not sure all of the best efforts were made here to find the better location,” Grey said.
The planning board voted 3-2 to recommend denial of the request. It now goes to the Pasco County Commission, which has final jurisdiction over zoning and land use issues.
In other action, the planning board:
- Approved a special exception request from Esther’s School Inc., for a private school in a high-density residential area. The school will operate on a roughly 6-acre site on the south side of State Road 52, about 165 feet east of Meadow Drive.
- Recommended approval of a request by The Crossings at Sunlake to rezone a 3.69-acres site on the north side of State Road 52, at the intersection of Sunlake Boulevard. The property is zoned for general commercial uses and a light industrial park district. The applicant proposes a general commercial district for a portion of The Crossings at Sunlake Commerce Park. A request is pending to change the comprehensive land use designation on the site from light industrial to commercial.
Published December 06, 2023