The Palm Coast City Council next Tuesday is set to approve leases for two new cell towers–one off Royal Palms Parkway in Town center, one off Club House Drive, near the Palm Harbor Golf Course.
They would be the first new towers approved since 2019. The Royal Palms Tower is uncontested. The Club House Drive tower is controversial, as was a similar proposal for a tower within the golf club in late 2020. Public opposition defeated that proposal. So while the council favors both towers, it is fearful of the public reaction ahead regarding the Club House Drive proposal–even though its members say the tower is a public safety necessity.
“I need a stronger sense of confidence that there is no other option,” Mayor David Alfin said. “For example, we just received a gift of land over at the golf course. Is there some part of that land that could be considered? I don’t know what the deed restrictions are. I need you to tell me have you are we are we sure that we’ve exhausted every search possible?” The city’s IT director said those possibilities were exhausted.
Council member John Fanbelli also wanted all other options exhausted, including the possibility of querying a private property owner for land, though that would mean no revenue for the city from that tower.
Palm Coast is again in a mini-drought of new cell towers. The last new one went up in December 2019. When a proposal to place a tower inside the Palm Harbor golf course was unveiled in December 2020, opposition was immediately palpable, as it had not been with previous pole-raisings.
Opposition turned to forceful protest. Then the council scrapped the proposal, under threat of lawsuit. It was to be the fourth tower in two years. But there’s been no new towers since.
The city’s cell-tower contractor, Diamond Communications, is now proposing to build the two new towers. Diamond is proposing to build a 150-foot monopole tower at 1255 Town Center Boulevard, essentially just southwest of the corner of Royal Palms Parkway and Town Center Boulevard, and a 150-foot tower off the area of 6 Clubhouse Drive, near Carlson Lane, co-located with a city utility pump station.
Council members were already skeptical about that one as they discussed both towers at a workshop Tuesday because residents’ opposition emails are already streaming to the council members’ in-boxes.
“We did look at properties throughout the whole area the city owns, trying to find a location for this tower,” IT Director Doug Akins told the council. “It’s a very well developed area. It’s very hard to find places that aren’t in public view, but this was the best one we can come up with.”
The city council in 2017 contracted with Diamond Towers to improve the city’s cell-tower coverage. Diamond was to find ways to build new towers at no cost to the city, and add carriers either on the new towers or on the five towers the city owns, including the water tower in the Hammock. In exchange, the city would provide generous lease terms for land where towers would rise. Diamond followed through. (See: “Palm Coast Would Turn Over Its Cell Towers To Contractor Even as New Law Revamps Landscape.”)
The city preserved 100 percent of revenue from carriers that pre-dated Diamond’s on city-owned towers. Diamond takes 25 percent of revenue generated by carriers it added to city-owned towers. At Diamond-constructed towers, Diamond gets 60 percent of the revenue, the city gets 40 percent.
It was Diamond’s responsibility to draft a master plan that would analyze how best to improve coverage. The company did that over the past five years, at no cost. Its fee is drawn from a percentage of the revenue it generates from carrier contracts on towers, whether those owned by the city or those Diamond brought on. Diamond identified 10 areas in the city that needed improved coverage. When the council approved the master plan in 2018, it also pre-approved locations of towers in those zones. So “a tower could be constructed on these sites without going through the special exception process or the Planning and Land Development Regulation Board,” Akins said.
The council still had final approval every time Diamond sought a lease, so it wasn’t necessarily a given that wherever Diamond wanted to position a tower, that’s where it would go. Notably, Diamond, and especially the city council, ran into that wall of opposition when the tower was proposed for the grounds of the Palm Harbor Golf Club.
Diamond’s five-year contract with Palm Coast expired last month, which means it’s no longer obligated to market master plan sites to carrier or provide consulting services to the city. But the two new locations were developed before the expiration of the contract.
The tower in Town Center would accommodate four carriers. For now, T-Mobil is interested in that location. Diamond would pay the city the usual $25,000 site development fee when the tower is built. The city would get 40 percent of carrier revenue.
AT&T is interested in the tower on Clubhouse Drive, as it was in the tower at Palm Harbor golf. Both city staff and Diamond agreed on the new location. But the site is not in the existing master plan. “It’s an area that needs coverage, but the specific site was not identified in the master plan,” Akins said.
That changes a lot in how it must seek regulatory approval. It would have to go through the usual regulatory process, including appearance before the planning board.
So why was it before the council on Tuesday? Because the city has to approve Diamon’s lease first, as it would not have, had the site been in the master plan. The ground lease is voided without a special exception–an exception it must still secure from the city’s planning board. Public opposition could be another variable–and public opposition may be only fueled by the fact that the site is not in the master plan. Diamond will be holding a neighborhood meeting to explain the proposal to the public.
“This site is because the other one was turned down by City Council,” Tom Waniewski of Diamond Communications said. “We had wanted to go on the golf course, that provided the coverage that we were seeking. That was turned down.” So this is an alternative.
Even without hearing from the public, council members were raising questions about the Club House Drive location. Mayor David Alfin wondered whether there were commercial parcels where the tower could go up. He cited “a significant piece of land” at 1 Florida Park Drive. But Waniewski said it would have been wrong for the company to pursue arrangements with private property owners when it was under contract with the city to seek leases through the city. Plus, the city would not generate any revenue from towers built on private property. Last year the city’s share of cell-tower income was $128,000. Nor would Diamond provide the $25,0000-pwr-tower fee to the city as it builds them.
“I’m also trying to weigh it against concerns that residents have with their their quality of life,” Alfin said. But he also raised a public-safety issue. “I don’t think we have the luxury of just not putting a tower. I’m trying to find alternatives, but the sheriff has has made it clear that there are areas–and this area is one of them–where his people are not safe, as Councilman Branquinho mentioned, because their service will drop out. That’s just unacceptable. So we will have to find a way forward from a public safety standpoint.”
“We need cellphone coverage. All of us know that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a call drop,” Council member Ed danko said, echoing the public-safety concerns as well. “I realize people don’t like cell phone towers in their neighborhood but they certainly like cell phone service.”
Waniewski urged the council to approve the the lease, giving the company the chance to make its case to the public rather than pre-emptively kill the proposal. The company plans for that neighborhood meeting possibly in July, followed by an appearance before the planning board.
The lease approval would not seal the deal. “The lease only gives them the option to get these permits,” City Attorney Neysa Borkert told the council. “We in no way can agree to any type of rezoning action or special exception through a lease agreement. So this doesn’t bind you to approve any future zoning matters that may come before you with respect to this property. It’s just saying: we are giving you the authorization to go in and try to get these permits if you can. We’re going to sign off on it because we’re the property owner, we have to, that’s a requirement of the permit. Then they have to take it from there.”
The city is authorizing the first step in the option, but not approving the building of the tower. Not yet. The ground lease the council approves would be contingent on approval of a special exception by the planning board. The special exception would not come back before the council. Either it passes the planning board, or it doesn’t. Without a special exception, the project can’t go forward and the lease is nullified.
“With all due respect, when was the last time the planning board rejected anything?” Council member Eddie Branquinho, who is not keen on the tower, said. “With all due respect.” (The planning board has been on a streak of recommending approval of new apartment complexes, against which Branquinho is waging a war, wherever the complexes are located. His comment should be understood in that context, and could, from the planning board’s perspective–with all due respect, of course–be reversed: when was the last time Branquinhpo approved of an apartment complex?)
Waniewski offered to insert a line in the option part of the Club House Drive lease that would give either side–Diamond or the city–an option to terminate the agreement within 18 months. That made Alfin and Fanelli more comfortable, and the council agreed to move forward to next Tuesday’s vote–approving both leases–with that escape clause built in.
Art Schwartz says
Let’s bring back the street fouling horses and get rid of automobiles, oh, and no phones.
Jim McCombs says
Guessing this is not in your back yard? It will be in plain sight from my front porch. Withinn 50yds of a nusing home. A few hundred feet from homes and condos. Guess what? We all want better cell coverage too. The point is there are other options that don’t require a residential zoning exception. This is just expedient and other options may not generate profits for tbe city.
Art Schwartz says
Somebody’s oxe always is gored.
Jim McCombs says
Precisely, and clearly if yours was you would surely find equally witty retorts to support your case.
We need more cell towers. It is not defacing to the area.
It wasn’t in the original ITT plan because we didn’t have cell phones until the mid 1990’s
WE NEED A NICE PICTURESQUE restaurant in the hammock on the River too.
Celia Pugliese says
Karen, this tower planned location needs to be moved 1,000 ft off the horrible planned site proposed and will serve the cell phone users in the same way as the location proposed now. We are not negating the tower exhistance just the location. If you want it in your living room to serve your cell phone better, be my guest, you can call city and Diamond towers and arrange that and enjoy it. For us educated, healthy and risponsible residents here in Club House Drive our health and value of our homes supersedes the need for cell phone better reception….the reception we have now is fine. Besides the fact that these towers improve reception is mostly BS as the Portuguese club like others has one of those towers nearby in the Palm Harbor Parkway but their cell phone reception has not improved at all, they still have to go into the street outside the club building to receive or make a call. Inncuracies about reception improvement by these towers runs havoc with some believers.
People want the cell service and they shouldn’t complain when new towers are put up to improve service, and to handle the growing population. After awhile, people get used to seeing them and, after awhile, don’t even notice the towers as they drive around town enjoying the improved cell phone lines. There is always a compromise when people want nice amenities and services where they live. So don’t complain, be glad we have them.
Jim McCombs says
Will this be within a few hundred feet of your home? It will be for my neighbors. The point is the city has other options besides a residential area. This is just easy and profitable for them. Believe me, we want better cell coverage too. There are other options that don’t require a residential zoning exception that should be prioritized over a location that impacts residential propert values.
What the hell is wrong with this scenario? Our illustrious council is concerned about a few negative comments about the location and need for a new cell tower but they do not give a rats butt about voting themselves pay rises? Get you priorities straight! Public safety and convenience will increase greatly with the new tower – No one benefited from your money grab to put a few more buck in your pockets. Vote these scumbags out.
We need more cell phone coverage and better internet service in all of Flagler County. 95 & Old Kings is a total dead zone.
Perhaps we ought to wait a bit, these towers will soon be as obsolete as the phonebook, payphone and road atlas. Tesla is launching hundreds of satellites per month and are going to completely take over the cellular industry switching from spotty towers to networks of orbiting satellites to seamlessly integrate their new Tesla Cellphones coming out this year. This isn’t a proposal, they are doing it now, Elon Musk isn’t playing around. Soon we will dismantle and scrap all these towers, mark my words.
Sorry, but you are woefully misinformed. Starlink will NEVER provide internet/phone service to populated areas. It isn’t designed to do so. It was designed to provide service to rural areas. Each satellite can only handle so many connections. The entire constellation of satellites worldwide will only handle a few million connections even when complete.
Shawn, do a little research, Yes it has done wonders to provide basic service to rural areas and war torn areas such as Ukraine, but thats just the beginning… Imagine if Tesla Owns the ore mines the Lithium for the batteries comes from, the factory (Unlike Apple made in China) the phones are made from the factory to build hundreds of satellites, and (Heres the Kicker!) He also owns Space X, and can launch dozens of his own Satellites per launch while still launching customer satellites as well to pay for the whole mission… It is one HELL of a business plan, not to be dismissed in a after comment on F Live! lol Elon does not like Nay sayers!
Meanwhile… Chinese astrophysicists report detecting non-random signals from space.
Celia Pugliese says
The problem is they probably will be left to remain eyesores when no longer used…like many utility boxes in our roads today. Also what better recption are most here brainwashed about. The Portuguese club has a tower maybe few blocks from them and still the reception in the location is nule…
It would be prudent to wait on giving approval of this tower to satisfy concerned citizens predominantly worried about health issues more than esthetics. Consideration of new technology replacing towers is important and probably safer choice, and may be alternative soon.
Celia Pugliese says
To all the above in favor of the Club House Drive tower, is because they do not have it out their front door and not exposed to the health issues or devaluation of their properties and eyesore by it. Invite council mayor and diamond to install one by your front or back lawn…and enjoy!
We have 38 homes in Carlson Park Estates, 53 townhouses in Lake Forest opposing it and needles to say the negative effect will cause in the residents and revenue of the nursing home one lot over from it off Club House Drive…The Courtney Lane homes are also less than 1000 ft from it Who will ever contract to leave an elderly of the family practically under a cell tower all facility residence?
I was appalled to hear the IT Dept administrator lie or was given incorrect info, when he estated the suggested proposal when the firts tower location was defeated, was in the Community Center, NO was way east the Community Center around Colbert Lane in side of Linear park in the center of Palm Coast Parkway were are no homes and is not visible… Why the lie as city and all were provided with the location spec by affected neighbor electromagnetic and comunications engineer Mr Lou Vitale. Mr. Vitale and us all in Protect Palm Coast hired the legal team of Teriyaque abn Brent Spain to represent our opposition of that first tower location in 2020 stuck to Covington Park, Oaks Hoa’s and Cole place residences. After residents and city legal teams heated discussion and letter to Holland cc council, then location was defeated and the Linear Park Center Parkway by Colbert Lane location was suggested instead. Why did Ray Tyner and IT department picked afterwards the so undermining location of Club House Drive in the middle of our homes and nursing home business? Mr. Branquinho “told” me there was not a need in 2020 that Protect Palm Coast spent $24,000 on legal team that we should have waited and they will oppose… So Eddie now we begged by so many emails before 6/14 meeting and we begged also in person enduring 3 hours council meeting by very elderly affected neighbors one with a cane recovering from fractured legg that could hardly sit any longer and had to leave before we were allowed to speak our 3 minutes opposition at end of meetin of course,..so now what else we have to wait? Should Protect Palm Coast be forced to spend again in costly in same legal team so council and mayor change the location were is supposed to be in the center of Palm Coast Parkway and not on the side of a Drive? If so maybe this time using the same Teriyaque and Spain we may need to request legal fees refunded, because is ridiculous that we have to hire lawyers to defend our quality of life over and over in opposition to the same darn cell towers. Of course “not permitted in our original Master Plan that needs special exception that speaks for itself”…we are a residential area not an industrial park, commercial mall or mayor highway like I-95 or the Parkways were these towers belong. Stop the loopholes to harm the residents health and property values and hear our pleads. Maybe newcomers may need to consider moving to PC with a legal team in mind to defend their quality of life against nonsense and obliviousness for those that we elect to represent us and instead give in to greed and against the residents
Like many projects, if it does not directly affect you then leave it alone. We are a community that would be a Great Community if we all looked out for each other neighborhood’s QUALITY OF LIFE. When we ignore what is happening to our neighbors, we let the city get away with harming the city’s overall health and Quality of Life. Soon this degradation destroys the beauty and health of our city. Do we really want to become known as having a Cold Heart toward our neighbors? A 2019 Documentary, The Truth Behind 5G -https://www.facebook.com/watch?v=2916939108321096
Yvonne Anderson says
This is not a debate about needing cell towers and coverage in this wonderful city. Actually, this isn’t a debate at all. Everyone has an opinion and many will share it. Go for it. I want cell phone coverage too. I also want a pony in my yard. But I cannot have a pony in my yard because there are rules, regulations and laws that protect my neighbors’ quality of life and their equity in their homes. And there are rules, regulations and laws that restrict where towers are placed for the exact same reason. I can appreciate that it is not in your backyard -so maybe you have a “don’t care at what cost to others” attitude. But just consider this- it doesn’t NEED to be near anyones’ private yard. The Mayor and Council have asked about the options of not having this particular tower on city-owned land – and possibly having a commercial or private land lease for the tower location instead. Equipment could be added to existing towers and buildings. Small cells could be an option in this particular area. It all needs looked at. Diamond Towers has an expired contract. This location is not part of the Master Plan. Where is the data required at a Federal level that shows there are no other viable options before placing an unsightly (and some will claim unsafe) and noise producing (think of the generators) 150 foot tower in a residential neighborhood? So the request is this- as the leaders of our city, look at other options with some fresh eyes and not be lulled by a study that has run out of time (hail Mary), written by a company that is looking to recoup their expenditures and not looking out for the best interests of the residents. And as a neighborhood- our options are clear since there are the laws and local regulations designed to protect our land values from and all that goes with it. And for the residents outside of the impacted neighborhood- Please consider thinking bigger than your own immediate “neigh”borhood- on this (and PM me if you know where I can LEGALLY board a pony. :-)
Timothy Patrick Welch says
The poor cell service in Palm Coast is really unbelievable.
There are many designs that can be used to better blend the tower with the location, thereby minimizing visual impact.
The only question should be which design is best.
Celia Pugliese says
No better Desing for these towers can imnprove the malignat effects on peoples health living under them less than 1,000 feet away : https://www.facebook.com/watch?v=2916939108321096. You want one call them and have it placed in your front yard you can profit from lease.
Timothy Patrick Welch says
Do you use led bulbs, an induction cooktop, or a microwave oven?
But the most significant and constant radiation exposure is from high voltage overhead lines, substations, and high power radio station and radar antennas.
These have significant health concerns associated with them.
Celia Pugliese says
In our beautiful Palm Harbor section of Palm Coast we enjoy (and that is why I bought here over 20 years ago) our utilities burried underground and not a threat at all. Then if I spent the extra money to buy with utilities underground why will I have to endure a cell tower 150 ft over head forced on us all?
The negative health effect is known by now world wide. Meeting tomorrow June 21st at 9 am and see if Mayor and Cpouncil have accpeted the alternate location presente in January 2021 to past Mayor Hollands and most the councimen seated today as well…That location is not in the community center is way east around Colbert Lane in the center area of Palm Coast Parkway woods with no homes, round andwithout affecting the effectiveness of the tower.
Celia Pugliese says
Thank you Ivonne Anderson. The tower alternate location in the center of the Palm Coast Parkway in the wooded vicinity of Linear Park and Colbert Lane over 1,000 feet away of any home will not affect at all the effectivity of the tower to improve cell phone reception etc. Those that believe their reception will be improved in other areas away from this tower need to call the city and invite one on their living rooms if they wish. For us educated risponsible residents that care for our quality of life and the value of our homes and the aesthetics of our zone, the Club House location is a NO, specially while violating our original master plan designed by ITT. Simply because we are not an industrial, commercial or large parkway zone. ITT designed the master plan for residential and city has no right to violate it by allowing their “rubber stamp planning board” a Yes to an special exception without the residents input, to install the tower! City elected one’s always appoint to the planning and other boards individuals that will get along approving greedy projects that take away our quality of life. Same like those special interest individuals attending the meetings in person in suit and tie, to just revere, sugar coat and applaud anything done against the well being of most citizens. The usual trolls then seeing around countyand city socializing over their gains.
Willy James says
I am totally surprised that nobody responding mentioned the need to put aluminum foil on your head if you live near a cell tower!
New or used?… Some of us folks are still into recycling here. ;-)
There are 5 acre Residential Parcels on Old Kings Rd North surrounded by acres and acres of vacant land. This sparsely populated area would be an ideal spot for the tower instead of densely populated Club House Drive. Where can I obtain a copy of the FCC Report (RF) radiation exposure guidelines which were developed to protect the public from RF (radiation exposure) health risks?
Yvonne Anderson says
You are exactly right on!
Celia Pugliese says
Starryid you are correct…the alternate suggested in 2021 is a location on the center or near Palm Coast Parkway in a public owned wooded land well away 1,000 fet from any homes…Thanlk you Starryid!