Thursday, June 21, 2018
Business

Former WTSP-TV Doppler radar tower, land sold at auction in Holiday

HOLIDAY — The auctioneer halted his chant for a moment and eyed the 14 people sitting on the ledge of the concrete block building.

"No need for me to just keep talking to myself," Louis Fisher said. "Is there any interest at all?"

As it turned out, there was someone who wanted the 5-acre Y-shaped parcel, which once was home to a working WTSP-TV transmitter and 100-foot-tall Doppler radar tower, along with two maintenance buildings and a home for the station employee in charge of overseeing the tower.

Scott Moro, a 28-year-old sales supervisor at a Tampa used car lot, was the winning bidder at Thursday's auction, though he had nominal competition from one neighbor for the house. He got land and buildings for a grand total of $19,800 including fees.

"I have some ideas," said the tanned, blond surfer who wore black shades and sipped a bottle of Mountain Dew. He said it included tearing down the commercial buildings and replacing them with homes. The property sits on Solar Drive, in the middle of Holiday Lakes Estates, a neighborhood of two-bedroom homes that lured Northern retirees in the 1960s and '70s. Moro said his father lives several blocks away and that he decided to try to buy the land after driving by the sites one day during a visit.

Moro made headlines in 2006, when he and two friends were charged with holding up a Tampa pharmacy at gunpoint and taking $220,000 of OxyContin. They were arrested three weeks later in Lee County. Moro pleaded guilty to reduced charges and received probation, according to court records.

The property is unique because of its unusual shape and the fact that much of it abuts more than 60 residents' yards.

The television station bought it in about 1999, said Johnnie Popwell, an employee at WTSP, which is based St. Petersburg and broadcasts across the Tampa Bay market. It stopped using the towers when the federal government required television stations to switch from analog to digital transmission. It now uses a tower in Riverview that Popwell said allows for better coverage.

"The property is basically abandoned," Popwell said, though the station continued to mow the lawn and maintain the landscaping at a cost of about $700 a month.

The station had also let residents use the small space that abutted their yards for free.

Bill Menish, regional director for the auction company Sperry Van Ness, said the station recently contacted the company to sell it. He said WTSP didn't set a minimum bid.

"They said sell it to the highest bidder," he said "They just wanted to get rid of it."

The sale drew a handful of curious residents eager to see who held their property values' fate in his or her hands.

"We hope it'll be clean and easy," said Peggy Hamann, who moved to the area with her family about 11 years ago.

Moro promised he wouldn't play any dirty tricks, such as erecting an unsightly fence and "offering" residents the chance to buy land for exorbitant prices.

"I hope everybody will have the chance to make their back yards bigger," he said.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

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