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Ridgemoor residents to vote today on cell tower in community

EAST LAKE — After years of spotty cell phone reception, residents of the Ridgemoor subdivision will be voting today on whether they want a cell phone tower built in the middle of their community.

While the master community association and the property management company have extolled the benefits of the tower, some homeowners strongly oppose it.

If two thirds of the approximately 1,200 residents in the community vote for the tower at their annual meeting at 7 p.m. at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, the board of the master community association will enter into negotiations with T-Mobile.

Then a 125-foot cell phone tower disguised as a pine tree would likely rise above the trees in a corner of Ridgemoor Central Park, on Ridgemoor Drive just north of Ridgemoor Boulevard.

The community would get better cell phone reception, at least for T-Mobile customers, and income for leasing the land. The tower would also accommodate other cell phone providers if they should be interested in a deal. In the December Ridgemoor News newsletter, master board president Anne Johnson said if five providers use the tower, the rent would be up to $21,600 per year.

But in the January Ridgemoor newsletter, Eleanor Evans said, "We all must think long and hard about the proposed cell towers in Ridgemoor and how they will affect our children."

Evans is a Realtor and uses her cell phone a lot.

"Yes, the reception is not the greatest," she said Monday. "But we lived without cell phones for a long time and I'm against it."

She said she's been reading about cell phone towers. "It's going to be right near the tennis courts, near the playground," she said, adding it will hurt property values. "But my primary reason is children — I just don't know the ramifications of it."

Another letter signed by 14 residents lists numerous reasons why they oppose the tower, from aesthetics to safety and liability.

David Johnson, an engineer and husband of Anne Johnson, said he's helped research the issue for the board. He said his wife has been president of the master homeowners association for six years, and that for many of those years residents have been complaining about their cell phone reception. The proxy votes collected so far, he said, mostly favor the tower.

"The most dangerous thing about cell phones is when you put them up to your ear," he said.

Ann Brooks, a spokeswoman for T-Mobile, agreed.

"The overwhelming consensus from the scientific community is that there is no impact on human health," she said. "The emissions from our antennas are very low."

Still, towers have proved controversial. Coleman Middle School in Tampa was considering whether to allow a cell tower on school property, but principal Michael Hoskinson decided against it last week, mostly because the controversy was such a distraction for students.

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

Ridgemoor residents to vote today on cell tower in community 01/12/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 12, 2009 8:15pm]
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