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Palm Coast Dead Zones: City Proposing Less Restrictive Cell-Tower Rules, But Council Demurs

| June 30, 2015

cell tower palm coast dead zones

A lattice communication tower on U.S. 1. Palm Coast is studying easing iots land regulations to allow taller towers in the heart of the city, where dead zones are frequent. (© FlaglerLive)

The Palm Coast City Council was non-committal to a proposal by the city manager today to change land regulations in the city so that cell towers could more easily rise around town, and dead zones reduced. The proposal is being made ahead of a deal, not yet sealed, between the city and a cell tower company that would result in a 150-foot tower near Heroes Park, behind Palm Coast Parkway, co-located on land where Palm Coast’s Water Plan No. 1 sits. But council members want to know more before moving too far ahead.

Currently along the so-called Palm Coast Parkway Overlay District, which extends along the parkway’s width and a distance beyond, a 50-foot height limit applies to all structures. So the land development code must be changed and an ordinance passed to enable 150-foot cell towers. The city administration is proposing to change land regulations to remove cell towers from the height restrictions in the overlay district, with setbacks of at least 10 feet from the property lines of certain commercial areas, and 150 feet from Palm Coast Parkway, Belle Terre Parkway, Old Kings Road, residential homes and residential zoning districts.

Towers would not be built by providers such as Verizon or AT&T, which are trying to get out of the tower business. Rather, companies that focus on building towers “come into a community based on where these dead spots are and build towers then try to find as many users as they can find,” City Manager Jim Landon said. Palm Coast Parkway has its dead spots. “We think we’ve got a solution but we need to change the code to make that happen.”

The city produced a pair of maps showing the strongest to weakest signals. Residents worst served by signal strength are in Palm Coast’s R, P and W Sections, as well as residents of much of the B Section, especially near Palm Coast Parkway.

“A 50-foot tower does cell phone tower companies zero good,” Landon said.

“Would two 50-foot towers solve the problem that one, 100-foot tower solves?” Mayor Jon Netts asked.
“Are there more than one way to skin a cat in the Palm Coast Parkway corridor?”

palm coast cell signal strength

The red and yellow signify strong signals, green, blue and bluer signify weak to dead zones. Click on the image for larger view.

“We have consultants that would have to look into that, however it would take an awful lot of 50-foot towers to get the high-speed data that people are wanting today,” Constance Bentley, the planner in charge of the tower project, said.

“Would it?” Nets persisted.

“According to the providers—“

“Oh please, let’s not ask the fox to define the chicken coop for us,” Netts interrupted. “Of course they’re going to tell you. They want to do it the cheapest, easiest, most efficient way for them.”

Council member Bill McGuire asked about the county’s cell phone towers’ heights. The administration didn’t have much information about that other than that they allow the towers. Netts recalled a time when Hutch King was a county commissioner and he required that if a tower was 150 feet tall, it had to be offset from the road by at least that distance, so if it fell it wouldn’t crush cars. McGuire was under the impression that county towers are required to be camouflaged “to look like trees,” which he called “kind of dumb looking.”

In fact, the county’s land development code allows communication towers of up to 300 feet if used for three or more service providers. The minimum distance requirement from a tower to a house is 300 feet or 200 percent of the height of the tower.

In February 2014, the county commission approved a 260-foot lattice tower on an 83-acre parcel at the southeast corner of County Road 2006 and County Road 95, with the area leased by Verizon for the tower lying adjacent to CR95, leaving 3,600 square feet of open landscaped area outside of the 80-foot-by-80-foot fenced “compound,” where the tower rises. That meant the tower was 1,750 feet south of CR2006 West. The closest home was 1,350 feet from the tower.

There is no “camouflage,” other than paint: the first 50 feet are required to be of a forest-green paint finish, while the remaining height is to be galvanized steel gray, though the county’s land development code does, among the four types of towers it allows, provide for stealthy or camouflaged towers in what it calls “subtle locations.” The most common towers, however, are not of that sort, but rather the monopole type that rises lower than 200 feet. Lattice and guyed towers rise above 200 and 300 feet and have larger footprints, but broader coverage areas.

In Palm Coast, the height of towers isn’t restricted anywhere else but in the Palm Coast Parkway overlay district. “If you don’t approve this proposal, then they’re going to go find another site on Palm Coast Parkway and put up their 150, but it won’t be on city property,” Landon said.

Residential area heights are limited to 80 feet in Palm Coast, but there are numerous 130- to 150-foot towers around town in non-residential districts, as in city parks, behind Frieda Zamba pool.

“I think it would be good to be consistent with what the county does,” McGuire said, pressing for more details about county practices, which the city will provide subsequently.

Before it’s on the books, the proposal would go to the planning board, then to the city for two reasons, then the council would see a contract and discover what the tower would look like. “What we’re trying to do is adjust the land development code to allow that conversation to move forward,” Landon said.

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10 Responses for “Palm Coast Dead Zones: City Proposing Less Restrictive Cell-Tower Rules, But Council Demurs”

  1. YankeeExPat says:

    “there are numerous 130- to 150-foot towers around town in non-residential districts, as in city parks, behind Frieda Zamba pool?” ………I have T-Mobile and I have no coverage starting from the pool going south up to and including the Flagler Beach Winn Dixie, I regain coverage when I merge back on to 95 S from the Flagler Beach on-ramp.

  2. Michael Randazzo says:

    I retired from Verizon and in my job there I put in fiber optics to cell towers. The footprints of these towers have shrunk in recent years and they do not cause any pollution.

    Most people don’t like them because they think they look ugly. Well pick what you want, lightning fast internet on your phone everywhere and you might have to see a tower every few miles or so, or dead useless phones in your pocket. I choose the tower it is a quality of life thing.

    How about a tower near Beverly beach while we are at it so my calls don’t drop along A1A.

  3. Charles Ericksen Jr says:

    Cell towers are to fall within strict boundaries, not to topple over, full length. The cell tower on Airport property is an embarrassment and did have branches placed on it, at the request of a County Commissioner in an attempt to disguise it as a tower ,,The branches have all fallen off at this time. The E section has poor at best AT&T service. even though the tower is but 1/2 mile away.

  4. Anonymous says:

    How nice to put the “never change anything as long as I’m alive” philosophy of some people in front of progress and safety. It’s really reassuring to know that if I need to urgently call for emergency assistance on my cell, no matter where I am in palm Coast, I may be out of luck. Talk about priorities!

  5. groot says:

    Out in California, they make them look like giant palm trees! We need some Royal Palms around here.

  6. DwFerg says:

    Come on people , let’s try and solve a simple problem—even if we would prefer to have a pristine landscape with no man made objects in sight( we are past the point of whether the information age has affected the city/county. Be reminded that we live with water towers so we can get in home delivery, so are cell towers needed to get on the bandwagon of the info highway with the rest of the world’s 21 st Century communication system. Like it or not, cell phones and smart devices need the infrastructure to work seamlessly. Progress means you make optimized choices to advance civilization. If you want nature, go out to Princess Place and pitch a tent and camp. If you want Palm Coast to compete/ stay abreast of the rest of the world, FIX this problem !!! While you are at this , get Fibernet to make $$$. Also, towers on city property helps defray the overall Tax burden on us.This is why thinking people would /should choose this as an option whenever possible/practical

  7. Sunny Day says:

    Terrorist look for these towers before taken over a city. They also look for the police towers. Take down communications, you take over the city !

    • Nalla C says:

      We’re Americans, we have got to stop letting a bunch of bullies at the Pentagon scare us all to the point where we cower in our homes. We cannot live our lives perpetually in fear of “terrorists”.

  8. Nalla C says:

    We used to live in Seminole Woods, where we had dead zones all over. Since moving to Matanzas Woods, it’s much better. Seems to me the southwest end of town and the areas just east of I-95 are at odds with that map somewhat, unless I’m reading it wrong. I still lose service every day, while passing through Bunnell all the way south to about where Old Dixie Highway dumps onto US1 (by the White Eagle). That being said, I can’t believe they need that many towers. Is it because so many more people have smartphones, or is it because the towers and signals are degrading faster than they should be? Mayor Netts nails that when he remarks about the carriers doing everything on the cheap–that’s what they do. They skate by, doing as little as possible. We have to demand more from them, to start with.

  9. Will says:

    What are the problems with the “flag pole” type towers that the City already allows? They look better than the “drilling rig” type towers.

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