Citing zoning concerns, Lakeland, Florida has voted against erecting a cell tower in their town. With a 3-2 simple majority, the Lakeland City Commission sided with residents near the Ariana Street location who argued against construction, reports The Ledger. Although the neighbors complained about declining property values and potential health issues, the Commission pointed to zoning issues as the deciding factor.
Commissions Phillip Walker and Stephanie Madden, who voted in favor of the cell tower proposal, explained that they felt a new tower would be beneficial for the community, especially the children requiring access to online educational material. Acknowledged as a less affluent community, the Dixieland neighborhood could easily wind up on the downhill side of the digital divide, noted Madden. She added that her support was an attempt to avoid “playing favorites” with broadband outreach.
The loudest voices, according to The Ledger, were the ones speaking out against a Lakeland cell tower. “If this tower goes in, we will move away. And we will move out of the Lakeland city limits because clearly my family, my home and my investment is not safe with you,” said tower opponent, Jennifer Aguilar. “Cell towers do not belong anywhere where we have our families, where they have their homes, where children go to school, and where we have lakes and endangered wildlife.”
The vocal residents gained the backing of Lakeland Commissioner Sara Roberts McCarley, who voted against the proposal, saying, “I will not support the tower today because I think the residents that I represent have viable issues and they are concerned about property values and I cannot in good conscience vote yes to support this.”
While the emotional appeals resonated with McCarley, the official reasons for the 3-2 anti-tower decision were recorded as proximity of the tower to surrounding residents and residents’ feedback, as well as an expressed wish for “better use” of the land occupying a parcel zoned for multi-family development. As a side note, Lakeland’s planning and housing manager, Teresa Maio, told the Commission that the property has been available since 2016. The cell tower proposal is the only offer the city has ever received.
After the vote was announced, a triumphant but cynical Aguilar commented, “Even if we did win this battle today, will it matter why? We are on a path to lose this war.”
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