Neighbors Oppose Proposed Harden Cell Tower

A month after neighbors held off an attempt to place a cell tower just north of Lakeland Christian School, there’s a new fight brewing against a plan to locate a cell tower just south of the school.

The proposed tower next to Touch of Class Dry Cleaners, 1800 Harden Blvd., is just a third of a mile from the site of a tower near Lake Hunter that was rejected by city commissioners on Nov. 16.

The new proposal gets its first public hearing by the Lakeland Planning and Zoning Board on Tuesday, and nearby residents plan to attend the meeting at City Hall to oppose it.

Marco and Jennifer Aguilar are leading the fight against the second proposed tower. They have produced a website that features numerous objections to the site, including residential aesthetics, property values, health concerns and variations from city development standards. The neighborhood has been blanketed with flyers.

Cell phones don’t work without cell towers, and the developers who want to build the tower have produced maps showing a need for better coverage in southwest Lakeland. But to people living near the Harden Boulevard site, towers are not about the need, they’re about the where.

“I think it shouldn’t go somewhere that’s not surrounded by businesses, homes and a school,” said Lynn Zellers, who lives close to the site in Citrus Center Colony Mobile Home Park.

The proposed cell tower site is on the north side of the property that includes Touch of Class Dry Cleaners. Autumnwood Apartments can be seen at left and Citrus Center Mobile Home Park is behind the metal building at the right.

Zellers said the possible health ramifications scare her. “I don’t want to go out in the yard and have to cover myself in aluminum foil,” she said.

Citrus Center Colony Mobile Home Park is east of the site, Autumnwood Apartments is to the north and Lakeland Christian School is north of the apartments.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed Harden Boulevard tower Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. in the City Commission Chambers.

The Planning and Zoning Board will vote on Jan. 20 whether to approve the project. If it passes the Planning and Zoning Board, it will go before the City Commission in February.

After the Planning and Zoning Board in October voted 4-1 to approve the Ariana Street tower, the City Commission in November voted 3 -2 against it.

Commissioners Phillip Walker and Stephanie Madden voted to approve the tower. But commissioners Sara McCarley and Chad McLeod joined Mayor Bill Mutz to vote against it.

While the Ariana Street and Harden Boulevard sites are close to each other in location, there are some differences:

  • The Ariana Street tower would have been 150 feet high while the Harden Boulevard proposal is for 110 feet.
  • The Ariana site was to be built on 10.9 acres of wooded property; the Harden Boulevard site is 1.3 acres.

Matt Lyons, the city’s chief planner, said the Harden Boulevard site is the most viable remaining site in the area, based on a site acquisition study. He said it was the planning staff’s second choice, behind the Ariana Street site.

Harden Boulevard “was never our preferred site” said Matt Lyons, the city’s chief planner, and the planning staff will recommend it be denied by the zoning board.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that the city planning staff would recommend approval of the tower. We regret the error.

Opponents of the proposal say there is plenty of remote land south of the site toward Lakeland Linder International Airport. The Aguilars say there are also plenty of appropriate locations to the west of the Harden site.

As for health issues, Jennifer Aguilar believes that more research is necessary to determine whether cellular towers cause health problems.

But she said she doesn’t want to be a guinea pig.

Developer’s proposal:

Opponents flyer:

Planning and zoning board agenda item: