There are numerous reasons why a cellphone tower should be allowed on vacant land at 1800 Harden Blvd., the city’s Planning & Zoning Board heard Tuesday. They also heard impassioned pleas from a Lakeland couple leading the fight to stop it.
The Harden Boulevard site is just a third of a mile south of another proposed site for a cell tower — 1055 Ariana St. — that was rejected by the City Commission last month. The Ariana Street tower was to be 150 feet high; the one on Harden Boulevard is planned for 110 feet.
Verizon is the lead phone service provider at the proposed Harden Boulevard tower site. It would eventually share the tower with three other companies.
One of the concerns of the opponents of the tower is it would hurt property values. But Mattaniah Jahn, representing Verizon, said studies have shown that “cell towers do not affect property values.”
Another criticism from neighbors is that the cell tower would loom over them. But Jahn said the site is somewhat shielded by vegetation. The tower would be “as slim as possible to make it look less visible,” she said.
It’s a compromise model, she said. The need for better cellular coverage in the area would be best served by a tower on the Harden Boulevard site, Jahn said. “You have to be spaced where the need is.”
She said it took the company three years to identify and select 14 potential tower sites and narrow the list down.
But nearby resident Jennifer Aguilar told the board that she couldn’t understand how it took three years to come up with a bad location. “Why not build a tower at Lakeside (Village) on top of the Hampton Inn?” Aguilar asked.
She and her husband Marco Aguilar are organizing the neighborhood opposition to the Harden Boulevard cell tower, which includes a website explaining the reasons they’re opposed.
The proposed Harden Boulevard site is next to Touch of Class, a dry cleaners. 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.
Marco Aguilar said he didn’t understand why the city “keeps pushing cell towers near homes and schools” at the expense of children and families. “I ask you to consider the health risks,” he said.
But the board can’t do that, Assistant City Attorney Jerrod Simpson said. Because of federal law, the city can’t make decisions based on radiation emitting from a cell tower, he said.
A staff recommendation is expected in mid-January, prior to the Jan. 20 meeting where the Planning & Zoning Board is scheduled to vote whether to approve the proposal.
If the vote passes it will be heard by the City Commission in February. If the vote fails it could be appealed in court.