Cell tower proposed at Claywell Elementary in Northdale

NORTHDALE — Another battle is simmering between a company that seeks out potential tower locations for cell carriers and parents who don't want a tower at their child's school.

Collier Enterprises, the company that handles lease agreements for cell carriers, wants to construct a 140-foot wireless tower in the southeast corner of Claywell Elementary School's athletic field. The tower would be operated by Clearwire, a wireless Internet provider.

School officials say leasing the space to the company would generate $8,100 a year for the district.

But a group of parents and residents say it's not worth it.

They cite concerns about their children's health and dipping property values. Claywell is at 4500 Northdale Blvd.

"Nobody has been able to prove to me that there's a need for it," said Manuel Perotin, a parent of two at Claywell. "I don't appreciate people using my children as a cover to make money."

Perotin was one of a handful of people who spoke before land use hearing officer James Scarola this month in opposition to the plan. Parents submitted a petition of more than 400 signatures, including neighbors in the nearby Northdale neighborhood.

Collier is seeking a special-use permit to construct the tower. Scarola has until July 6 to decide on the permit. If he approves the special permit, school principal Lisa Maltezos would make the final decision about whether the tower actually goes up. Maltezos could not be reached for comment.

Jim Porter, the attorney for Collier, said the Claywell site is attractive because it is in an area where Clearwire needs service.

The slim-line tower would be screened by a large cypress tree and would be set back about 870 feet from Northdale Boulevard and about 260 feet from the closest residence, Porter said in an e-mail.

In December Porter and Maltezos met with members of the Northdale Civic Association. A parent meeting was held in January.

But parents like Alicia Johnson said they should have done a better job communicating the plan.

"I think a lot of things were swept under the carpet," said Johnson, a parent of a first- and a fourth-grader at Claywell.

Those meetings did little to allay Ann Frisbie's concerns.

"I think it's going to have an impact on the resale value of homes surrounding that parcel," said Frisbie, president of the civic association. "There's at least one homeowner that's going to have the tower as her view."

Controversy has plagued recent cell tower proposals for schools throughout the county. Parents and people in neighboring communities have protested them at Pride Elementary in New Tampa, Coleman Middle in South Tampa, and in Brandon and Valrico.

In December, opponents got a victory when Collier Enterprises was denied a special-use permit to construct a tower at Buchanan Middle School in the Lake Magdalene area. The company appealed the case but withdrew the measure in April.

Nicole Hutcheson can be reached at nhutcheson@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3405.

Cell tower proposed at Claywell Elementary in Northdale 06/24/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 3:15pm]

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