SEFFNER — A mobile phone carrier has won permission to build a 155-foot tower at the YMCA on Kingsway Road.
Hillsborough County land use hearing officer James Scarola granted the special use permit on Nov. 6 after considering arguments last month from both T-Mobile and opponents who worry about health affects, aesthetics and property values.
The fight isn't over, said Denise Verrill, a 40-year-old Seffner mother of two who walked a picket line to protest the tower. "We have found grounds for appeal, and we will be appealing," she said.
Among those grounds: T-Mobile did not notify all of the area's homeowner associations of the application, Verrill said. And the hearing officer disregarded evidence that the tower could interfere with existing medical equipment.
T-Mobile spokeswoman Ann Brooks said the signals from towers do not interfere with medical devices. She said the company not only informed the neighbors of the plan, but held an informational meeting on Oct. 7 that was not required.
Of the decision, she said, "We are always pleased when we are able to provide a new facility that will bring both voice and data coverage to our customers." The tower, she added, ensures "the best service possible."
While opponents to cell towers believe they could cause cancer, federal law protects carriers' rights to build them as long they comply with safety regulations.
At the hearing on Oct. 19, Verrill said she had surveyed residents and found that their cell signals are just fine, making the tower unnecessary. She and her neighbors argued that the tower would be out of place in a largely recreational site, could attract lightning strikes, endanger curious teens who would try to climb it and hurt property values.
T-Mobile spokesmen say increased usage of cell phones, especially inside homes, makes more towers a necessity. They say a ground ring will draw lightning away from the tower and other targets, and that there are similar towers at other area ballfields.
While early plans called for an unlit flagpole-type structure, T-Mobile now plans to include a flag, which will be dimly lit at night.
Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 909-4602 or firstname.lastname@example.org.