State-of-the-art technology is a hallmark of Lakewood Ranch, Manatee County’s largest master planned community.
But ironically, cell phone reception is often lousy, residents say.
On Tuesday, Ben Edmund and Lance Craft of Sarasota-based USA Groups appeared before Lakewood Ranch District 1 supervisors to say they have the solution: small cells.
Under the USA Groups’ proposal, several low wattage cell towers, which look like street lamps, would be strategically distributed and positioned to boost service in Lakewood Ranch.
The small cells would typically be between 30 and 40 feet tall and designed to blend into the community, unlike much larger conventional cell towers.
“Connectivity is changing the way we live, work, plan and learn,” Edmund said.
Already, 44 percent of U.S. adults live in a house with a cell phone, but no land line, and that percentage will continue to grow, he said.
There were 447 million mobile-enabled devices in the United States in 2015, and that will increase to 947 million by 2020, all fighting for space on the digital bandwidth, Edmund said.
The answer is “densification,” where smaller, denser cells add capacity.
USA Groups sought Tuesday to open a collaborative community conversation with District 1 supervisors, who serve the Summerfield and Riverwalk villages.
Installation of the small cells would be at no cost to the districts. USA Groups would make its money by leasing its systems to carriers that want to do business in Lakewood Ranch.
Supervisors declined to endorse USA Groups’ proposal, noting other companies are likely to have proposals of their own.
In addition, several of the supervisors still carry scars from public objections in past years that blocked planned cell phone towers in the community. Residents object to cell phone towers because of their size and health concerns.
Emissions from small cells, in contrast, are about the same as two night lights, Edmunds said.
Another stopping point for District 1 is that Manatee County owns the rights-of-way in the district.
“We have a right-of-way ordinance in place that does not address the new technology,” Pamela D’Agostino said.
County staff is now working to have a process and procedures in place for small cell and distributed antenna systems, and has a temporary cessation resolution in place, she said.
The county won’t accept applications on the new techology until midnight Feb. 10, 2017, D’Agostino said.
John Noe, a Lakewood Ranch resident since 2008, attended the meeting to speak in support on small cells.
“They have way better cell phone coverage in Oneco than Lakewood Ranch,” Noe said, adding that he finds it impossible to conduct a job interview on the phone because of connectivity issues.
In other business Tuesday, the Inter-District Authority, which oversees operations at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall:
- Heard concerns about Town Hall’s computer system conversion. Steve Peters, president of the Country Club/Edgewater Village Association, said the new computer might not be up to the task of properly serving the districts and homeowner associations. Peters’ concern was prompted in part by the fact that the company helping with the changeover has billed Town Hall for $64,000 of support, twice the amount that was budgeted. Steve Zielinski, Lakewood Ranch’s chief financial officer, said, however, that he is confident in the progress of the changeover, and said that as it moves forward that the billings will decrease.
- Presented 10-year service awards to Alejandro Grevara and Pedro Gomez, and a five-year service award to Art Sugarman.