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Shores cell tower is moving ahead


The Town Council Monday voted unanimously to enter into a land-lease agreement with Datapath Tower, the next step in the effort to get better cell phone service in Indian River Shores.

The lease covers 2,500 square feet on Town Hall property needed to sink a concrete base up to 40 feet deep upon which the 110-foot monopine cell tower will be constructed and camouflaged to look like a huge pine tree. Datapath is leasing the land for renewable five year terms for up to 50 years.

Datapath has agreed to pay the Town a $30,000 fee up front, plus periodic payments of $1,350, in addition to a share of the proceeds of the fees paid by cell phone providers to place their transmitters on the tower.

The Town and Datapath will share the cost of building the tower. The exact price is not known, but the Town is responsible for up to $150,000 of the pine tree camouflage, as this accoutrement was not envisioned in the original proposal.

Initially, Datapath had planned to build a monopole tower, which was deemed aesthetically unacceptable after nearby residents protested having to look at the unadorned equipment from their back yards.

Last week, council members approved the land lease with the caveat that they wanted Datapath to excavate and remove the concrete base should the tower ever become obsolete. After last Thursday’s meeting, Town Manager Robbie Stabe and Mayor Brian Barefoot discussed the matter with Datapath, determining that removal of the massive pilon was not only a deal-breaker due to the potential cost, but that it would neither be feasible nor recommended.

“Datapath said that it could not be done, and even if they could do it, it would leave the potential for a massive sinkhole to develop,” Stabe said. Putting the Town Hall, the Community Center, the Public Safety Complex or neighboring homes in jeopardy like that is not an option, he added.

With that information in hand, Barefoot called a special council meeting for Monday morning and approved the land-lease with a compromise:  Should the tower ever be taken down to make way for some future cell technology, Datapath would remove the top two feet of concrete, restoring the site to pre-construction level and returning it to sod.

Stabe told the council that timely execution of the land-lease agreement was critical to nailing down at least one of the major cell phone providers for the new Shores tower. The tower can support up to five or six providers, depending upon the configuration of transmitters that are installed to send out cell phone and data signals.

As part of the planning process for the tower, the Town approved Ordinance 524 to amend the Land Development Code to allow “a communication tower up to 135' under very specific conditions,” but the final site plan of the tower, once presented, must come back for approval.

Datapath is awaiting approval from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and from two of the nine Native American tribes which must sign off on the project because at one time in history, those tribes may have had ancestors living on or migrating through the barrier island.