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Summary judgment sought in cell tower suit

MANATEE — Manatee County filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court asking for a final summary judgment in its favor in a lawsuit brought by cell phone tower provider Vertex Development LLC.

Vertex sued the county in December after Manatee County commissioners denied the company’s application to build a 150-foot cell phone tower in River Club.

County commissioners voted 6-1 on Dec. 3, 2009, against the tower, rejecting Vertex’s claim that the cell phone tower would be “an auxiliary use for the golf course,” said county attorney Tedd Williams.

Vertex sought to erect the cell phone tower near the River Club pro shop, a move vigorously opposed by many residents of the community.

River Club, with roughly 950 residents, is south of State Road 70 and east of Interstate 75.

Vertex alleged the denial was unsupported by substantial evidence, thereby violating federal statutes.

The county’s position, however, is that the commission’s denial was supported by substantial evidence, Williams said.

Some of that evidence, Williams said, included testimony from 16 River Club residents during public hearings.

One resident, Emanuel Alex Toise, said his street, Spyglass Lane, is a cul-de-sac with homes enjoying views of the clubhouse, the first hole of the golf course and the putting range.

He said he thought the tower would appear to be coming out of the top of his roof.

James Lontz said the cell tower would negatively impact the community’s aesthetics.

Craig Harrison told commissioners there are no trees tall enough in the area to block the view of the tower from his home.

The community covers more than 1,000 acres with the Braden River cutting through the middle of the property.