Angry parents get reprieve from on cell phone tower issue

02/04/09 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

Hillsborough County Commissioners today requested that the Hillsborough School Board stay a land use law just enacted that would allow some schools to build cell phone towers without input from the public.

The construction of such towers has drawn the outrage of parents in recent months – first at Coleman Middle School in South Tampa, and later at schools in New Tampa and Brandon.

Carrie Grimail is with the group People Against Cell Towers at Schools. She says that many of the people in her group were unaware there were hearings last fall on changes to the county’s land use code.

The change occurred even after the zoning staff recommended that the board deny such a change. Onstead, the Board voted unanimously to allow cellphone companies, in this case Collier Enterprises II, the ability to streamline the process.

It allows school principals at campuses larger than five acres to avoid public hearings as long as they submit letters of support.

There is considerable debate on the safety of those who live near such cell towers. Although several experts have said clearly there should not be any concerns, many of the parents at the schools in question simply don’t believe that.

Ray Alzamorrow read aloud a response that he said he received from an aide to a County Commissioner, which said the intent of the commission was to depoliticize the process by placing the power in the hands of school principals. But he had problems with that.

Lisa Williams said that many who wanted to attend the meeting couldn’t because of work or other commitments. As she held aloft a petition she said had been signed by a thousand people, she said the change in the zoning law was only going to help Collier, and specifically, its point person on the issue.

At the end of the discussion, County Attorney Renee Lee said she would research the amendment, which just went into effect on Feb. 1. That’s when Commissioner Jim Norman made a motion that literally brought cheers from the audience.

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