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    Company wants to disguise cell tower

    The 150-foot tall tower at Gulf Road and Tarpon Drive would accommodate four wireless providers and look like a flag pole.

    By KATHERINE GAZELLA

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 10, 2001


    TARPON SPRINGS -- A company represented by City Commissioner Cindy Domino wants to build a 150-foot-tall wireless telephone tower encased in a flag pole on Gulf Road.

    The tower would be 3 feet in diameter and would accommodate up to four wireless providers. Domino, who presented the tower proposal to her colleagues Tuesday night, said the tower would not be as unsightly as some other cell towers.

    "What we're proposing is a little less ostentatious," she said. "It will have a working flag on it."

    Domino, a site acquisition manager for Crown Castle International in Tampa, is asking the city to amend its cellular tower ordinance to accommodate stealth towers such as this one.

    The issue is scheduled to go before the Planning and Zoning Board at 7 p.m. Feb. 26, and is on the agenda for City Commission meetings that start at 6:30 p.m. March 6 and March 20. All three meetings will be at City Hall, 324 E Pine St. in Tarpon Springs.

    No one spoke in opposition to the tower at a meeting Tuesday night. Commissioner Beverley Billiris said she wants Crown Castle to put together information for residents who live near the site.

    "I would feel really a lot more comfortable if they were well-informed," Billiris said.

    The city is required to notify residents who live near the proposed tower. Domino said Crown Castle will explain the proposal in an insert in those mailings.

    "I'm not out here to pull the wool over anyone's eyes," she said.

    She said she doesn't know how big the flag will be, but it will be in proportion to the pole. She said the tower and the flag will not be unpleasant to look at.

    "I live a half-mile from that site," Domino said. "I'm not going to do anything that's going to be outrageous for the community."

    According to Crown Castle's plan, the company would buy a vacant piece of land at the corner of Gulf Road and Tarpon Drive. If approved by the City Commission, the company would build the proposed tower within a walled and landscaped compound toward the back of the property.

    The tower will cost about $100,000 and the foundation will cost another $30,000 to $40,000, Domino said.

    Later, the company would develop a 4,800-square-foot retail or office building, parking and stormwater retention at the front of the property. Crown Castle hopes to lease the building and the front part of the property to a developer.

    The company has the Gulf Road property, which covers about 0.9 of an acre, under a purchase agreement.

    Crown Castle first tried to build the tower at Tarpon Springs High School. Administrators at the school were in favor of the plan, but the School Board has not made a decision about whether mobile telephone towers should be allowed on school property.

    -- Staff writer Katherine Gazella can be reached at (727) 445-4182 or gazella@sptimes.com.

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