A public hearing at the Gadsden County commission meeting last week took well over an hour and the only decision made was to postpone the vote on the issue until the next meeting in November.
The topic was a deviation requested on a cell tower to be located at the Peavy and Son Construction property North of Havana on US 27.
At issue was the absence of commissioner Gene Morgan.
According to the county’s ordinances and under the Citizens Bill of Rights, asking for any deviations on property issues requires a super majority vote.
The question then shifted to whether the super majority meant of the commissioners present, which in this case was four, or of the actual five sitting commissioners.
After considerable debate the commission decided that it required four of the five votes to pass.
A number of people were present at the meeting expecting to give testimony about the deviation.
Attorney Laura Lee Westine, who represents Florida Telecom Services, the company that is requesting the cell tower deviation, asked the commission to allow people to testify (in this case the deviation qualified as a quasi-judicial hearing and required anyone who speaks to be sworn in).
After more debate the commission agreed to hear the testimony and make the final decision at their next scheduled meeting in November.
There are four requested deviations concerning the 220-foot cell tower. Those deviations concerning the tower included:
• A requirement that county-owned land be considered for the tower. Their response stated that the nearest county land was not within the radius needed to satisfy need coverage gaps.
• That existing towers be considered before towers are considered on new sites. Their response was that the nearest tower was more than two miles away and did not satisfy the coverage needed.
• Tower sites can not be within a half mile of Rural Residential (RR) districts. Their response stated the nearest RR district was 585 feet from the property and the nearest resident within the RR was 1,950 feet away.
• Requires at least seven times the tower height set back from property lines. Their proposal is for 2.5 times the height of the tower.
The Planning and Zoning Board, in its earlier review, passed the request in a six to four vote.
A number of people spoke on the issue with several speaking on the need to have Verizon on the tower. The tower at this point will have AT&T as a provider.
Westine stated during the discussion that her firm had approached Verizon about being on the tower and was told that it would be considered in the 2014 budget year for expansion.
“Everybody has Verizon,” local area resident Jessie Sears said, adding that he did not have a home phone.
Another area resident, Jan Rogers, said he lived a mile and half from the proposed site. There were many people in the area, he said, who did not have service (cell phone). He asked that they, do what they could to encourage them to have Verizon.
Amy McBride spoke on several issues concerning health and the closeness of one particular resident. She said she had not been able to find any governmental agency information about the possible health issue.
In response to that question, Westine said that the cell tower had less radiation than a baby monitor.
Another issue McBride raised was a residence that was only 292 feet from the proposed 3,500 square foot area that will house the tower.
After considerable discussion it was determined that the property was about 592 feet from the property line and across US 27 from the site.
No further action was taken on the issue, which will be voted on at the next commission meeting.