tampabay.com

Cell phone tower plan is getting mixed reception

Ridan Industries will have an opportunity to allay fears of the 150-foot pole.

By CRISTINA SILVA, Times Staff Writer
Published August 19, 2007


A Tampa-based communications company has proposed what would be the first cell phone tower in Shores Acres.

Ridan Industries has been reaching out to residents about its plan to construct the tower at 4672 Chancellor St. The 150-foot tower would provide service for up to six cell phone carriers and would be topped off with a 20-foot American flag.

Ridan has yet to file a formal application with the city. The cell tower would primarily benefit residents in nearby Venetian Isles, where cell phone users frequently complain about unreliable service.

"For quite some time there has been a coverage hole in that particular part of Pinellas County," said Kevin Barile, president of Ridan. "You have to look at the advantages. The life-saving utility of cell phones is undisputed."

But the proposed size of the tower has raised some eyebrows.

"It is a monster right smack dab in the middle of a residential community," said council member Bill Foster, who represents the district and also lives in the area.

Foster said he would rather see a smaller cell phone tower or a pair of medium-sized towers.

"I'm going to work with them to make sure it is somewhat compatible with the neighborhood," he said. "It is kind of a necessary evil. You don't want dropped calls."

Residents so far have been split evenly over whether the tower would be a good thing for the community.

The issue will be discussed at a community civic association meeting Monday at the Shore Acres Recreation Center. Ridan representatives will be present to answer questions.

Reaching out to the community affords Ridan a chance to state its case in a neutral setting, Barile said.

"We have found that we are more successful if we do that," Barile said.

Some in the area say they already have crystal clear cell phone service, but others complain of frequently dropped calls.

A number of residents also fear the tower will be a health hazard. It is unclear whether that threat is real. Scientists and professionals have debated for years whether the exposure to magnetic fields from electric power distribution lines or the use of hand-held cell phones increases the risk of cancer or other illnesses.

Shore Acres Civic Association president Patricia Cook said she hasn't formed an opinion yet on the cell tower but would write a letter to the city either in support of it or against it depending on how residents voted at the meeting Monday.

"It looked nice in the pictures they showed me," she said of the proposed tower. But then she added, "If it was in my back yard, maybe it would tick me off, too."

Cristina Silva can be reached at 727 893-8846 or csilva@sptimes.com.

If you go

Community meeting

What: Shore Acres Civic Association meeting.

Why: To discuss a proposed cell phone tower.

Where: Shore Acres Recreation Center, 4230 Shore Acres Blvd NE.

When: Monday. Refreshments will be served at 6:30 p.m. The meeting begins at 7 p.m.