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New communications towers receive approval

Over objections on and off the commission, the county authorizes two towers to benefit parkway commuters.

They debated black holes and argued search rings.

Hernando County commissioners discussed communications towers Tuesday, not deep space. Yet the introduction of more towers in the county sent some residents into orbit.

The commission approved two new towers by a vote of 3-2, with Commissioners Paul Sullivan and Pat Novy voting no in both cases.

Those two applications were brought by ACME Towers Inc. of Tampa. A third application brought by High Point Tower Technology Inc. of Bradenton was postponed a week to give county planners time to review conflicting studies on the impact of property values by communications towers.

All three towers were proposed near the Suncoast Parkway to help serve cellular phone users commuting along the roadway who might ride into a black hole, or a gap in cellular phone coverage.

One ACME tower, rising 280 feet, will sit just west of U.S. 98 in northern Hernando County east of Tatum Road, south of Norris Bishop Loop Road. The other ACME tower, also standing 280 feet, will sit south of Sandy Drive, less than a mile east of Sunshine Grove Road, just west of the parkway.

The 300-foot High Point tower, if approved, would sit a few miles north of the second ACME tower just south of Centralia Road west of Sunshine Grove Road.

The two ACME towers initially would hold antennas for a wireless Internet server as well as PrimeCo and possibly Sprint in the future.

"It is an evil necessity for technology and growth," said ACME consultant Stephen Emberlin, project manager with Florida Acquisition & Appraisal Inc. in Apollo Beach.

But Sullivan said there are some prices for technology he is not willing to pay.

"I don't deny that there are folks in some subdivisions that don't mind living next to wastewater treatment plants or electric lines . . . or a 300-foot communications tower," Sullivan said. But he would not want to live there and would not want to force others to live near a tower just so "13-year-olds can talk to their friends on little telephones."

Commissioners Bobbi Mills and Chris Kingsley agreed at least one of the ACME sites was better than any for a communications tower, with a mine on one side and a landfill on the other.

Drivers on both U.S. 98 and the parkway would benefit from seamless service.

"There are more than just 13-year-olds that use cell phones," Kingsley said.

But resident Howard Minckler, who said he could throw a stone at one of the ACME sites from his house on Sandy Drive, told commissioners he brought 100 signatures with him from residents opposed to the tower.

"People who use a lot of this stuff don't have it in their back yard," he said. "From my house I can see four towers." Other upset residents at the meeting were Maryse Mead and her husband, Kevin, there to complain about High Point's proposal, which was postponed.

"When we swim in our pools in our back yards that tower will loom over us," she said.

It's not the first time residents opposed towers.

Last year, a federal court overruled the County Commission's denial of two communications projects, saying the rejections violated the Telecommunications Act of 1996. More opportunities exist to continue the fight.

Eventually, more residents and commuters using cell phones will max out the service provided on existing antennas, said Jerry Greif, county chief planner.

"As the area develops, it may require additional towers to serve the area," he said.

Hearing is postponed on

Jefferson Street billboard site

County commissioners postponed a hearing Tuesday on a proposal by the Browning family to rezone a one-third acre site on the south side of W Jefferson Street west of Darby Lane in order to build a billboard.

The Brownings, a prominent Brooksville family, want to put up a 400-square-foot billboard at the site. The commission originally approved the billboard on Nov. 2, but two weeks later Commissioner Nancy Robinson said she wanted the board to rehear the issue because she missed the vote and because Commissioner Pat Novy said she thought the billboard would be 100 square feet.

The Brownings sued the county, and the commissioners subsequently passed a 90-day moratorium in January.

Tuesday's hearing was postponed until May 3, pending a court hearing.