The applicant for a new cell phone tower at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport is one step closer to achieving his goal of improving wireless service in and around the airport.
On Thursday, the Manatee County Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval for a zoning ordinance and general development plan to allow for the 140-foot monopole-type communication tower. The Manatee County Commission will have the final say on the project at the April 6 land use meeting.
Paul Rozeman, the owner of Main Site LLC, has one wireless carrier, Verizon, committed to the tower. He hopes to bring on additional carriers, including T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint.
The Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority approved the telecommunications tower lease in September. Rozeman approximated tower construction tentatively will begin in the fourth quarter of 2017.
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Originally the cell phone tower was planned for a site near the Airport Mini Storage facility east of U.S. Highway 41. Though the original plan posed no problems with the airport’s commercial jet flight path, because of issues with helicopter flight paths, SRQ’s legal counsel, Charles “Dan” Bailey, said the plan presented a concern for the airport.
It is intended to enhance wireless service in that particular area. It’s a very high-volume traffic area; you have USF, you have New College and you have the airport. So there’s always a need for any enhancement and it would certainly be welcome for all of those users.
Dan Bailey, legal counsel for Sarasota Bradenton International Airport
The result meant moving the tower 900 feet south, placing it adjacent to SRQ’s new air traffic control tower and enduring a series of public meetings. The first location of the tower would not have required an appearance before the planning commission because that parcel is not subject to an existing general development plan and a development of regional impact.
Planning commission member Matt Bower asked the applicants a forward-looking question about the affect an “eyesore” like a cell tower might have on future development.
“I have no problem with a cell tower,” Bower said. “But this tower will go right next to (U.S. Highway) 41 in an area that has struggled for years to build itself back up and become part of the Bradenton-Sarasota area. I’m thinking in the long-term aspect. What does this look like on 41 and how does the county manage appearance on other things in terms of long-term growth perspective?”
He asked why the airport wouldn’t consider moving the tower elsewhere, perhaps closer to Tallevast Road, which is the northern end of SRQ land.
“Then you get into the approach of the runway and you can’t build there,” SRQ president and CEO Fredrick “Rick” Piccolo said. “Whereas on 41, you’re on the side of the runway.”
Earlier this year, Piccolo expressed opposition to a nearby residential development because of its height. The development, called Blu Harbor, would be on 12.4 acres on U.S. 41 to the south of Anna Maria Oyster Bar. It calls for four condominium buildings with up to seven stories and 212 units as well as a private yacht club and marina with up to 132 boat slips.
The height of the development would conflict with the commercial jet flight path because the runway lies just south of the proposed development, Piccolo said Thursday. Planes begin their descent for the runway from the north. The cell tower wouldn’t conflict, Piccolo explained, because it’s situated in the middle relative to the runway and planes don’t fly in from the west for landing.
“If the Blu Harbor building was going where the cell tower is going, the height would not be an issue,” Piccolo said.
Bradenton Herald Manatee County reporter Claire Aronson contributed to this report.