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Shores Council picks firm to plan new cell tower


More than 100 residents of Bermuda Bay hope to convince the Indian River Shores Town Council to locate a much-needed cellular phone tower somewhere other than adjacent to their community.

But for now, the only thing that has been decided is that Datapath Tower is going to spend most of the next year coming up with a plan.

While previous discussions have focused on a smaller “stealth” tower that might look like a flag pole or a palm tree, the Town now is looking at a full-size, 130-foot structure.

A tower of that size would be able to hold the transmission equipment of four different cellular phone providers – AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.

Each provider needs approximately 12 feet of space for antennas and broadband data equipment, and the companies with the highest placements on such a tower would pay a premium.

A smaller 85-foot tower could only accommodate two of those cell providers.

The option of two smaller towers was also considered, but that would greatly increase the cost of construction and maintenance and would cut into revenues.

Installing a flag pole or fake palm tree apparatus to mask a 130-foot structure, Town officials said, is not practical and might increase the tower’s vulnerability in high winds.

Town Manager Robbie Stabe noted that tower plans are still in the very early stages. “We’re not even there yet,” he said of any concrete recommendations, other than choosing the company the Town will be dealing with.

Stabe said it will take eight months to a year to finalize a plan.

He said that public would be kept informed and afforded ample opportunity to ask questions and to voice concerns or support for the tower project.

“All the specificity ends up going to the Planning, Zoning and Variance Board,” Stabe said, adding that only if and when the plan passes the scrutiny of that board would it come back to the council.

“When people start showing up here in October, November we want to be in a position to answer questions,” Mayor Brian Barefoot said.

The Town Council a year ago seemed inclined to favor a location at the west end of the Town Hall and Public Safety Complex property,  but adjoining Bermuda Bay residents urged the Council to shift the placement of the tower to a spot near Vero’s electric substation at the end of Fred Tuerk Drive.

While many think the spot near the substation is ideal, objections have been raised by influential residents who live along the riverfront in John’s Island.

After analysis by the Town’s Finance Commission, the Shores rejected any idea that the town would permit, construct and own the tower. Chairman Bob Auwaerter said the risk was too much for the town to bear.

“The other option is that the vendor would put the cell tower up, would take the risk of permitting and construction and the vendor would pay use a site fee as well as a share of the gross cell carrier rentals,” he said.

Datapath Tower is headquartered in St. Petersburg, and Stabe said the company provided many more references on Florida projects than the other finalist, Vertex, and that gave him a greater comfort level with the choice.