Last Updated: Jan. 25, 8:30 a.m., with details from Diamond Communications.
For the first time in almost 10 years, a new cell tower is going up in Palm Coast, the first of three slated to go up in the city this year.
The new 150-foot tower is going up at the city-owned utility plant behind Heroes Park on Palm Coast Parkway, just west of the county library. AT&T signed a lease to be on that tower, which will be completed in late February. AT&T’s signal should be active by the end of March, officials say. The tower should significantly improve coverage along the Palm Coast Parkway corridor, one of several areas plagued by poor cell coverage in the city.
About two months after the Palm Coast Parkway tower goes up, another is slated to go up at Fire Station 24 at 1505 Palm Harbor Parkway. AT&T is signing on to that tower as well. And later this year, another 150-foot tower is scheduled to go up at the Palm Coast tennis Center, 1290 Belle Terre Pkwy, next to an existing cell tower the city owns there, embedded in a 150-foot flagpole. The tower will be monopole-style with a full antennae array, with a capacity for four carriers.
AT&T will be signing on to the new tower there. T-Mobile has agreed to move from the flagpole to the new tower. “We’re hoping Verizon will follow suit, if not, Verizon can stay on the flagpole,” Cindi Lane, a city spokesperson, said. The site plan for the tower, along with construction drawings, are completed. Some environmental work remains to be done. “But they are hoping to build it this year,” Lane said. The tower is expected to improve reception in parts of the P and R Sections.
“Typically, a wireless communication tower such as the one being built [behind Heroes Park] can cover a range of 1-3 miles depending on population and traffic density, topography, foliage and other factors,” said Daniel Turnpaugh, Diamond Communications’s vice president for site management. “Each wireless carrier is responsible for their own network engineering.”
There will be an advantage for carriers to be on the new tower near the tennis center, as opposed to the flag pole. “The existing flag pole restricts the amount of equipment that a carrier can install, thereby limiting the carriers’ coverage and technological capabilities,” Turnpaugh said. “The new planned wireless communication tower will provide the wireless carriers with enhanced coverage and technological capability.”
The three towers are the result of a contract between Palm Coast government and Diamond Communications, a private company, the council approved on May 1, 2017, to improve cell reception in the city. Under the terms of the agreement, Diamond developed a wireless master plan and pledged to attract new carriers both to the city’s four existing cell towers (one of them a water tower in the Hammock) and to its own newly built towers.
Diamond builds the towers at its own expense on land leased from the city at minimal cost. Turnpaugh said the typical cost of a tower ranges between $300,000 and $400,000, depending on site-specific issues.
Diamond keeps 60 percent of the proceeds from carrier leases on its towers. The city’s share is 40 percent. The city continues to receive all revenue generated from its four towers. It has not lost leases on those city-owned towers since contracting with Diamond.
For the new AT&T lease at the tower behind Heroe’s Park, the city will be paid $14,160 a year. The rent will rise 2 percent a year. Diamond will also pay Palm Coast $25,000 as a site-development fee. (See the contract with Diamond here.)
Carriers have been resistant to providing service in Palm Coast because of too-stringent rules, Lane said. That changed last year when, in January, the council relaxed regulations, opened the way to taller towers at more than two dozen sites in the city, and shifted discretionary rule-making from the council to the administration. It was the first time the city was changing its wireless rules since 2005, when wireless communications were still in their relative infancy: the iPhone, for example, was still two years in the future back then.
“The Palm Coast City Council made it a top priority to improve cell service for our residents and businesses, and we’re excited to see this first new tower going up,” Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland said. “People rely on their cell phones to keep in touch with family and friends and do their day-to-day business, and these new towers will improve service dramatically. Plus, there will be great public safety benefits as we continue to grow as a community.”
The city council is also leading a number of technology initiatives for Palm Coast such as updating the business plan for its fiber optic network for high-speed internet, telephone and other telecommunications services.
“We are expanding our use of technology through smart-city applications, and we are working to maximize the potential for the city’s FiberNet system and wireless infrastructure,” Holland said. “We see technology as a way to not only improve city services, but also to help grow the local economy.”