Cell tower study draws ire
Another round of arguments led to a walkout when Hillsborough County planners tried to talk about a planned study of cell tower setbacks.
About 25 people attended a second community meeting Tuesday night meant to allow for input about a possible study of how much distance is needed between towers and homes.
Many residents became upset because they want the study broadened. They were told at a meeting last month the study only would focus on setback issues relevant to safety.
Many want the study to focus on other issues, too, such as aesthetics.
They contacted county commissioners and staff members and said they were told Tuesday's meeting would broaden the discussion.
But lead county planner Tom Hiznay said he was told to keep the topic on safety.
County commissioners will discuss the scope of the study at their Aug. 18 meeting.
If commissioners decide to broaden the study, they likely will hire a consultant at a cost of about $50,000.
Resident Lee Vaughan accused Hiznay of prohibiting his right to express himself.
"I believe you are not allowing us the chance to express our rights of freedom of speech," Vaughan said. "And I really don't see the point in staying at this meeting."
A resident also accused an attorney representing a wireless company of using intimidation tactics by bringing a court reporter to the meeting. The attorney said he simply wanted a record of the meeting. Some residents videotaped the July meeting.
After 30 minutes of arguments, about half of the crowd walked out of the meeting.
The group continued discussing safety factors that may create a need for a code amendment change to setback ratios. The current ratio is 1 foot for every 3 feet of tower height.
Besides structural collapse, lightning was discussed as a possible safety risk.
Laura Belflower, who represents several wireless carriers, cautioned the group that some safety concerns were construction code issues, not land use issues.