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Debate Continues to Surround Proposed Port Orange Cell Tower

Thu, Aug 23, 2018 at 4:00PM

Port Orange, FL - The pressure is on, and the issue is a complicated one, but what is clear is how Port Orange residents and the Port Orange City Council members feel about the proposed monopole cell phone tower that, if a Change of Use land petition is approved, would be built in a heavily-saturated residential area.

At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting residents packed the chambers in a show of solidarity against the change of use proposal initiated by AT&T and Port Orange United Church of Christ, whose land AT&T is leasing and upon which AT&T is planning to erect the 125-foot tower. A legal representative for AT&T said a lease was signed between the two parties at the end of July.

The current land use codes have been in place since 1997, which Mayor Donald Burnette pointed out was prior to the extensive use of cellular devices for telecommunications and data transmissions.

“We want to hear what all the issues are,” said Burnette. “We have a strong responsibility to protect neighborhoods. We can’t always anticipate future changes when codes are written, but we can react.  Once a site plan is submitted we will have something to react to, but at least we are armed now with knowing how residents feel.”

Burnette went on to say the next logical step is seeking more information before exploring any legal routes.

“We need to aggressively engage stakeholders, because it is clear this option is not palatable,” said Burnette.

The burden is now on AT&T and the church to present a site plan for review by the Planning Commission – until then no action is likely. But, Council members clearly know how residents feel on the topic.

Resident Eugene Healey was given the opportunity to give the same presentation he shared at last month’s Planning Commission meeting, which he says shows the fundamental flaws and blatant land use code violations of positioning a cell tower in a populated neighborhood.

“Approved use doesn’t mean it’s logical,” said Healey. “It’s clear the proposed site area is framed by residences, a daycare and an elementary school.”

Healey presented data to show what he says is evidence of property value depreciation if the tower was approved.

Paul Kern, a concerned resident who has led a charge to collect data in support of the residents’ opposition, spoke and offered additional facts about the noise impact of the diesel generator required to operate the proposed tower.

“The tower should be denied for many reasons, not the least being the negative visual impact and the decrease of property values, but also the noise that will come from the generators violates code limits for the City of Port Orange, ” said Kern.

Council members offered their personal comments, and each underscored their appreciation and support of residents.

“I don’t fault AT&T; they’re in business to make money and provide a service, just like many others. They’re not to be concerned with quality of life issues, instead that’s our job as a City Council,” said Tramont. “I urge us as a Council to do what we can within the law to advocate for the people. This is personal to me. We recognize development is going to happen, but we have to protect the integrity of our neighborhoods.”

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