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Cannella Elementary neighbors oppose camouflaged cell phone tower, too

Neighbors of Cannella Elementary are waiting to see if a zoning hearing master will quash the proposal for a cell tower at the school after dozens packed a hearing on the matter this week.

"Now I have a nice clear sky view," said Andrea Hartman, who lives behind the school in the Wildwood community. "The view if that tower goes up would be that tower."

Some dissenters carried signs in protest, while about 20 others wore T-shirts that read "No Tower at Cannella."

The 150-foot tower is being proposed for the southeast corner behind the school, next to a parking lot and mechanical equipment facility at 10707 Nixon Road.

Collier Enterprises II, the company that seeks potential tower locations for cell carriers, is handling the lease agreement.

Tuesday night's public meeting was in conjunction with Collier's submission for a special-use permit, required in order for the cell tower to be built at a school.

This is the second time Collier proposed a tower at the school. The original application was denied because it was deemed to be an intrusive view for neighbors and it changed the character of the school campus.

But Jim Porter, a land use attorney representing Collier, said the model presented Tuesday would be a flagpole camouflage tower, which neighbors of the area had said they preferred.

The camouflaged tower would have a concrete base that would taper to 36 inches in diameter at 100 feet, continuing to the top. It would be illuminated at night.

However, the camouflage tower didn't appease some neighbors who said they prefer not to have a tower at all.

The school is part of the Plantation of Carrollwood development. Ralf Brookes, an attorney representing the community, spoke in opposition.

Robert Woock presented photos taken of his backyard view overlooking a pond, where he watches herons, wood storks and roseate spoonbills. The tower, he said, would ruin his view.

Others had safety concerns.

Mark Carruthers said he lives within a half mile of the proposed tower. He worries of potential long-term health effects for his 2-year-old daughter.

"How many years did it take them to prove smoking had health issues?" he said.

But not everyone was opposed to the tower. About a dozen supporters showed up, including school staff.

Sue Whitinger, principal at Cannella, said the tower would bring needed revenue. She said 70 percent of her students qualify for free and reduced lunches, and the school would use the tower revenue for smart boards and computerized overhead projectors and a cover for the outdoor court. The school could get at least $30,000 a year in revenue, Whitinger said.

Whitinger sent home ballots for parents' opinions and 504 parents said yes to the tower; 146 no, she said.

James Scarola, the county's zoning hearing master, is expected to render a decision by March 9.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at (813) 226-3431 or eparker@sptimes.com.

Cannella Elementary neighbors oppose camouflaged cell phone tower, too 02/18/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 18, 2010 3:31am]
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