Tampa City Council refuses to look at cell tower ordinance listen08/27/09 Mitch E. Perry
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The Tampa City Council today voted to send a formal letter to the Hillsborough County School Board to reverse an ordinance that makes it easy to place cell towers at schools without public comment.
But that decision failed to mollify many angry citizens who wanted the city to go further in making it more difficult for such towers to be installed.
The issue has been a potent one for citizens in Tampa over the past year, with parents of children at schools in South Tampa rising up against a decision to place a tower at Coleman Middle School. Later protests were held at Pride Elementary in New Tampa, with similar concerns about the safety of such towers. But others dispute the danger level.
City Attorney Julia Cole said at a Council workshop that there were several state and federal regulations that pre-empt what the city could actually do, beginning with the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
City staff said that there have been 59 public sites in Tampa where cell towers have been erected over the past decade.
Councilman John Dingfelder asked if there was any way to determine what is â€˜adequateâ€™ coverageâ€™, the term that attorneys for the cell phone companies have used when theyâ€™ve been challenged.
City Attorney Cole said she wasnâ€™t sure how that would work, since the city is not allowed to ask questions up front or any business information on the issue.
Mike Rothenberg is with a group against the cell towers. He handed Council members an ordinance his group had crafted to deal with the problem.
Cell phone tower critic Bill Cook called a 1999 previous task force that came up with a proposal on cell towers a decade ago 'a sham'. Not every parent who spoke was against the cell towers.
Jim Porter is an attorney representing Collier II Enterprises, a Tampa company that develops tower sites. He told the Council they should reject looking at the proposed ordinance that citizen Mike Rothenberg presented to them.
But the rules seem to favor the installation of cell phone towers. City Attorney Julia Cole warned members that there was one thing they could not reference in making any decision.
Councilman Charlie Miranda said he wasnâ€™t convinced about the negative effects of cell phone towers on peopleâ€™s health.
Councilwoman Mary Mulhern said that the City should create a new task force to work on an ordinance, that should include parents of school children to tweak the current law.
But Mulhernâ€™s motion to do that failed on a 4-3 vote, with Councilmembers Dingfelder and Saul-Sena supporting her.