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Neighbors make views of Buchanan Middle cell tower loud, clear

As a way to voice their displeasure with the proposed cell tower, Lee and Ellen Vaughan put up a large sign. Their property on Woodway Drive abuts Buchanan Middle School.

STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times

As a way to voice their displeasure with the proposed cell tower, Lee and Ellen Vaughan put up a large sign. Their property on Woodway Drive abuts Buchanan Middle School.

CARROLLWOOD — Every morning Ellen Vaughan fixes herself a cup of tea, sits on her pool patio and gazes at the tall trees.

A mixture of birds chirping and the morning announcements at Buchanan Middle School, which sits directly behind her home in the Woodbriar subdivision, round out her morning routine.

She and her husband, Lee, cringe at the thought of a cell phone tower becoming part of the scene.

So on Sunday, Lee Vaughan spent the entire day constructing a 13-foot sign to face the school's athletic field. "Oppose 160 ft. Buchanan Cell Tower," it reads, listing the phone and fax numbers of the School Board.

A 160-foot tower is being proposed for Buchanan Middle School, at 1001 W Bearss Ave., about 75 feet from the Vaughans' property line.

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

Buchanan's principal Scott Hilgenberg met with parents and Collier on Oct. 15. Now Collier's request for a special land use permit has moved on to the County Commission for approval. Hilgenberg could not be reached early this week.

"If we wanted to live in an industrial site, we would have moved to an industrial site," said Vaughan, a former educator and vice president of the Woodbriar Homeowners Association.

The group has collected 96 signatures from neighbors who oppose the cell tower. They fear it will bring down property values and affect their health.

Collier recently put up signs in communities surrounding the school to advertise a Dec. 2 meeting to discuss the issue. But the meeting was canceled because of bad weather, said Jim Porter, a land use attorney representing Collier.

Neighbors are upset because many didn't know about the tower before the signs went up. Some believe they should have been personally notified.

"I should know something," said Mark Bokor, president of the Woodbriar Homeowners Association, who was informed about the proposal by a fellow real estate agent. "The company has had no correspondence with me."

Porter says Collier has abided by the law in notifying the public of its plans, adding that the company had "complete parent support" at the October school meeting.

"I understand that they're concerned, but the bottom line is it's going there because there's a need for it," Porter said. "There are codes in place (when building a cell tower) to protect the public, and we're meeting or exceeding all the requirements."

Controversy over cell towers is nothing new for Tampa Bay. Parents and people in neighboring communities have protested cell towers at Pride Elementary in New Tampa, Coleman Middle in South Tampa, and in Brandon and Valrico.

Once a special permit is approved by the county, school principals can decide whether a tower will go up on their individual campuses.

This year the Hillsborough County School Board collected $140,490 from cell phone tower leases. The money is shared by the board and the schools where towers are.

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

If you go

The County Commission will discuss the proposal to erect a cell tower at Buchanan Middle School during a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday at the County Center, 601 E Kennedy Blvd., second floor.

Neighbors make views of Buchanan Middle cell tower loud, clear 12/10/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 10, 2009 3:30am]
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