The Palm Coast City Council this morning tabled until January 19 a controversial proposal–the only controversial proposal among five like it in two years–to locate a 150-foot cell tower on the grounds of the city’s Palm Harbor Golf Club.
The decision only seemed straight-forward. But it followed almost an hour of tense, at times embittered public comment and interactions with Mayor Milissa Holland, who frequently struggled to keep the discussion narrowly focused on issues defined by the city rather than on tower-related issues as the public understands them. That only deepened tensions and created the impression that the mayor was attempting to control residents’ perspectives.
But in the end it was Holland who, passing the gavel to the vice mayor, did what Council member Ed Danko had attempted at the beginning of the discussion and failed: she motioned to table the matter until January, pending the resolution of an apparent discrepancy. The location of the tower as proposed today was different from the location originally proposed. It was initially to be located next to the Green Lion, the restaurant at the club. It was subsequently moved a distance several hundred feet away from there, near the club’s maintenance building. (See the illustration above.)
When several members of the public pointed out the discrepancy–and threatened a lawsuit–it was Holland’s turn to be frustrated with a lack of answers from both a staffer at Diamond Communications, the private company in charge of Palm Coast’s emerging cell-tower network, and from city staff. For several minutes no one would clearly admit that the tower had moved. And for several minutes after that non one could clearly explain why it had moved, lending credence to public claims that it had moved as a favor to someone (developer Jim Jacoby’s name came up: he owns land in and around the golf course, some of which he plans to develop.)
By the time Holland made her motion, her tone was no less testy than had been that of innumerable residents, who then found themselves supporting the mayor they had moments before been criticizing, though some of the harsher critics–including Vitale, a founding member of the group that calls itself Protect Palm Coast and that grew out of the resistance to development at Palm Harbor, had left the room. It was Vitale who’d threatened litigation. “We do not consider this lease agreement valid,” he said. “Somebody has moved it for personal benefit.”
It was the latest in a string of strained city council meetings since the Nov. 4 election, which brought two new council members on board–Danko and Victor Barbosa–and left a faction of anti-Hollanders seething since on fumes hazing from the same source of baseless doubts about the election’s outcome as have undermined the Biden presidential victory. (Danko still wore his Trump mask from the dais, a political statement that has drawn its share of criticism.)
It was then Council member Nick Klufas, in a rare, veiled rebuke of the administration and either members of the public or fellow council members, who put an exclamation mark on the segment at the end of the hour, moments before the meeting ended: “I’d like to remind council that when we meet during workshops and we’re discussing items, it is that time for when it is useful for us to bring up these things where you can try to gain consensus,” Klufas, who just began his second term, said. “Grandstanding–and this is my sole opinion–is not appreciated during a business meeting, where the discussion has not occurred and our only opportunity to discuss things as a council previously in an effective way to move forward. In regards to just being unaware of what is coming, it’s just a non-effective way to govern.”
Klufas, Holland and fellow-Council member Eddie Branquinho had earlier in the meeting appeared ready to approve the siting of the new cell tower, the first such siting this year but the fifth since 2019: the three voted down Danko’s motion to table, and likely thought they’d hear a long cue of criticism before what would have been another 3-2 vote in favor of the new tower. But council members had been unquestionably blindsided by the revelation that the tower had moved, if not by the confusing and confused way city and Diamond officials explained it.
That had nothing to do with the chief concern of residents over the tower: its potentially hazardous health effects, and their request to table the matter to allow for an analysis of those effects. Vitale, an engineer and inventor–not a health expert, though he invented a portable ECG monitor–says he specializes in electromagnetic fields analysis, and would provide that analysis to the city. How that analysis would relate to health concerns absent an expert health analysis is unclear.
Health concerns about cell towers aren’t imaginary.
“At this time, there’s no strong evidence that exposure to RF waves from cell phone towers causes any noticeable health effects,” the American Cancer Society says on its website. “However, this does not mean that the RF waves from cell phone towers have been proven to be absolutely safe. Most expert organizations agree that more research is needed to help clarify this, especially for any possible long-term effects.”
This year the European Environment Agency, the European Union’s equivalent of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, released a briefing paper on the “Effects of 5G wireless communication on human health.” The EEA, it says, “has long advocated precaution concerning EMF [electromagnetic field] exposure, pointing out that there were cases of failure to use the precautionary principle in the past, which have resulted in often irreversible damage to human health and environments. Appropriate, precautionary and proportionate actions taken now to avoid plausible and potentially serious threats to health from EMF are likely to be seen as prudent and wise from future perspectives. The EEA requests that EU Member States do more to inform citizens about the risks of EMF exposure, especially to children.”
Several people who addressed the council today spoke of concerns about their own children, though property values, aesthetics and city procedures were also among their concerns.
“I don’t know how we’re talking about the lease and not the impact of the tower. To me they’re one and the same,” a resident of three months told the council, alluding to Holland’s insistence on keeping the discussion narrow.
“But they’re not,” the mayor said, “this is about the lease agreement with Diamond Communications.”
“But the lease agreement allows the tower to be placed on that property. Thereby we are talking about the tower. Ma’am, I don’t want to play semantics, and that’s what we’re playing here. We’re using semantics to work around the fact that we’re going to vote on a tower that is going there, and you are impacting the livelihoods and the lives of people in that area. I wasn’t here when you voted on this master plan in 2018. From what I can tell and all the time I spent in the last four days, losing sleep and my health, to go through this matter, which we got last minute notice on Thursday or Friday via newspaper article, that this was happening, and from what I can tell, what this lease is saying is not agreeing with what the master plan approved, thereby the lease is illegal and unlawful, and needs to be reviewed and looked at.” The resident added, “I didn’t retire from the military after 25 years to take friendly fire in my own backyard to have to deal with this. I wanted to have a quiet, nice, pleasurable retirement, live in the beautiful city of Palm Coast, and right now I feel like I’ve been totally hoodwinked, and I feel like–pardon my French–screwed, and I’m ready to move out, and I don’t want to do that, because the property value of my house is going to plummet when we put a cell tower in there. I’m sorry for being upset, and I’m very upset. I’m usually very calm-mannered. But this is unheard of.”
In fact, it’s heard of routinely across the country and the globe since the emergence and explosive growth of cell service. Googling “cell tower upsets residents” returns innumerable articles and references to such controversies, including in Flagler County, when a proposed cell tower on John Anderson Highway mobilized similar opposition. (The tower proposal was scrapped.)
After the meeting, the city administration circulated the 2017 master plan to media, indicating that the location discussed today (referred to as 7A in the master plan) had been part of the plan (here and here), with a parenthetical specifying that the potential site “includes maintenance building,” near where the tower is to rise, though the master plan map shows the location more clearly by the Green Lion. The argument about the “moving” of the tower could have been anticipated and explained in last week’s workshop, as Klufas implied, possibly neutralizing opposition on that point.
Danko had sought to table the issue pending the production of photoshopped images that would show what the tower would look like on the skyline, especially to people approaching the city from the east. He also wanted the city to take advantage of a “free analysis” by Vitale about the tower, though the nature of what that analysis would consist of remains vague. Danko said he’d rather see the tower go up “where this wouldn’t be 300 feet from people’s homes.”
Alexander F. Blasscyk says
Wonderful site location! Alex Blasscyk – Main Stream Telecom II, LLC
Land of no turn signals says says
Just another small flush for the city of Palm Coast.
Art G Schwartz says
Those opposed complain of lousy cell service!
No, those who oppose have valid concerns about health and the impact on their property values.
Robert Bianco, MD says
Typical of the local politicians trying to pull a fast one. The reason as I see it, the site was moved as the original site is where they had been planning for future residential development. This would be a travesty in either location. The consensus is that this would truly pose a health risk.. Also is there really an issue with cell service or more to service Big Tech with promotion of 5G
Percy's mother says
“I can’t get any cell phone reception!!!! The city needs do to something about it!!!!! Why did I move here? I feel like I’ve been had!!!! I hate the mayor!!!
so . . . The City arranges to have a cell tower placed in the location mentioned in this article to fix the problem everyone’s complaining about.
“I can’t get any cell phone reception!!!! WHY is The City putting a cell phone tower where EMFs are going to make me sick and decrease my property value??????? I hate this place. Why did I move here?????????? MY HEALTH IS SUFFERING!!!! (even ‘tho the cell tower isn’t there yet).
My perspective is as follows:
Beam me up Scotty . . . just not over the cell phone tower that’s not there yet. EMFs you know. Yet another big sigh. Are there any normal people in Palm Coast?
So much weirdness in one place.
Celia Pugliese says
First of all I have to sincerely appreciate councilman Danko (Ed as he suggested) for his request to take this item #9 off the Consent Agenda and table it giving the affected residents the floor to present their grievances and their opposition. His Trump mask took back stage today, to the very important issue of the Diamond proposed 150 ft cell tower so close to so many homes.
I also have to appreciate Deborah Vitale for her detailed research of the original planned location near the Green Lion something that I do not believe was presented or informed to council, mayor or city lawyer.
As a resident being unaware of the details in the Diamond contract probably incorrectly thought these towers locations would be notified to residents before approval but looks like in 2018 council approved otherwise as reported: “and giving the city administration, as opposed to the council, broad leeway in determining where towers go, how many may rise and what they may look like” https://flaglerlive.com/116546/cell-towers-rewrite/. Without affected residents input I consider this 2018 decision, unfair and may need to be undo.
I have to also appreciate the Mayor’s pause to question regarding the existence of the original location close to the Green Lion after made aware by the opposing residents attending the meeting, something that should have been informed to Council and mayor for the prior workshop meeting as well. I had the impression that city attorney also didn’t have that information either. 600 ft distance from presented location makes a big difference.
The last monolog by councilman Branquinho concerned about that “if council gives in to all of us that attended the meeting in opposition to this tower location”, then what about the seven or eight towers already installed regarding the residents around them? To that Mr. Branquinho I can only say that those residents also had the right to attend meetings and their 3 minutes to oppose and didn’t so was their choice! I bet you do not have this tower anywhere 150, 300 or 600 feet from your house. I asked council to keep the residents pleas in mind right before the end of the meeting but looks like you just ignore us in your councilman comments at the end. Historically in Palm Coast and often with the prior administration residents were not properly informed, made aware or just didn’t know, grave grievances have been created by projects like the loss of the Matanzas Golf Course and plan for over development of the Palm Harbor Golf Course as well. Mr. Branquinho did today’s affected residents at times “emotional plea” against the location of this 150 ft tower close their homes ever got to you, in power..?
Why the same standards have to be applied to different problems? Example: no to FPD soft humps to slow down speeders and discourage the use of a residential road as a pass thru traffic, because then other residents may ask the same. Well FPD has 8.400 vehicles a day is very narrow and winding and has homes 60 feet from speeders doesn’t is make it exceptionally worst than other streets?
And changing subject the Mayor is right I noticed today the drag racing rubber tires in around the city hall and surrounding Town Center and also the incredible amount of litter as well. City government should have already installed inconspicuous cameras to catch the vandals. By the way mayor this rubber drag marks in pavement is allover PC .
Schwartz you are welcomed to invite them to install it next to you house .
Chris Martin says
Excellent article. Well done residents of Palm Coast in highlighting the lies and sneaky self interested behaviour of Diamond and the City Council. The City and Diamond would be well advised to move this to a safer non residential location where they will not be damaging citizens or be sued.
Mike McGuire says
The City officials complain that comments and questions on this proposal should have come up at the workshop (ONLY A WEEK BEFORE!) yet they are the very ones who set rules for notification of nearby residents who would be affected. These rules are preposterous in that they severely limit (via geography) who will be notified and you have to know this is intentional to limit dissent so the proposal can be rammed thru. Then its too late. So perhaps if the City acted more above board on such proposals, they would not get such “ambushes” from upset residents.
The same thing happened with the proposed (now dormant but still pending) development on the golf course. Anyone who thinks that moving the tower location was not to benefit this proposed development is dreaming.
Chris Martin says
No residents at all were notified, not even the poor buggers less than 300ft from it. Disgusting way of treating residents and tax contributors. Seems developer and some council members were equally keen to steam roller us. Could there be a common interest? 💵
We need it says
Build the tower! Strong wireless infrastructure will continue to be a necessary component of modern living. Everyone needs to get over it. People will oppose any change…
Monte Cristo says
That’s not the point of having cell service. It’s about how the City Staff and the hired Consultant didn’t do their job.
the relationship with the Staff member seems to be too cozy.
Staff put this item on The Consent Agenda. This is the best place to put things if you want to rush them through.
Danko wanted it tabled but got resistance from the three that voted not to table. Only after the Mayor lost control of the meeting did she want it tabled. All making me suspect the process.
Here are the people responsible for the mess. Starting at the top.
Manager Morton should have been on top of his staff. Next is the lawyer For putting a lease out without reading it, the Staff Member heading up the project let the Consultant do whatever they want to do. The Consultant thinks they run the City.
If I were the Mayor after that embarrassment of a meeting I would be asking Manager Morton to fire someone including the Consulting firm.
Concerned Resident says
They can build it in your backyard then – rather arrogant to make the statement you made without any fact or empathy…all over cell service…what has this world come to?
Do I see some cell tower contractors posting here in favor of the Palm Harbor Golf Course tower and against us all affected residents that attended this Tuesday meeting opposing it?
Concerned Resident says
Yes and some them live on the west coast of Florida – just further supports the premise of slimy behavior!!
Yes build the tower as better cell phone connection is needed but NOT in the proposed location were may affect residents health residing under it wave frequency and will seriously diminish the value of their homes.
In the meeting that I attended the most obvious emotion was Not Hate for the Mayor (lets do not further distort reality) but instead a sincere concern for their well being, safety, homestead value and their interrupted peace and happiness taking their sleep away since learned about the proposal and yes affecting probably the health of mostly retirees that found beautiful Palm Coast and even some very recently moved here. I am sure that Council and Mayor in spite of city attorney’s Mr. Reissman comments can move the contractor to find another location without further deteriorating the residents confidence on them. If the county scrapped the cell towers contractors location in John Anderson the city also should do for us. Diamond works for us engaged by the city so be it and do it keeping affected residents in mind, we are not disposable. Our Mayor, Council, administrators and attorney should read very careful the small printing in these contracts offered to them like a shinny basket of goodies to avoid these negative outcomes raising the blood pressure of residents and government officials. I have to say that was a very nice gesture of our Mayor at end of meeting appreciating us attending (I saw in unusual numbers) the long meeting and bringing our comments to her. No one hates the mayor for the record. The affected residents are just understandably frustrated and can’t help to display their emotional pleas. They spent half million and up in those idyllic homes in idyllic Palm Coast and are defending them.
Dan S says
Branquino hung himself w/ his own words at the end of the meeting. “If we say no to this tower, then what are we to tell the residents living next to the 7 0r 8 other towers?” You tell them I’m sorry and that we should investigate or study whether or not this is harming people living near these towers. You’re admitting that you would pass this knowing the possibility of potential health affects. And to anyone who doesn’t believe it just do some of your own PubMed research. The studies are there, albeit drowned out by industry funded psuedo-science. True environmental impact studies have probably not been done on any of the other tower sites including the “monopoles” or stealth towers near school grounds at Rymfire Elementary, Wadsworth Elementary, Indian Trails, and Flagler Palm Coast High School. I guarantee a majority of parents whose children attend these schools know nothing about the cell masts hidden in these poles. The city and or schools collect money, a paltry sum, while risking the health of your children.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30526242/ This is just the tip of the iceberg, but here are the types of possible effects you can expect if your children attend these schools
Harbor Resident says
I live 400 feet from the proposed site. Speak for yourselves. I wouldn’t want that thing next to my house in a hurricane, let alone having to deal with the insane construction traffic in such an outdated residential area….. no lines on half the roads back there. Not a very ideal location either – speaking as a surveyor. This gets approved my home will be on the market and I will be gone lol
Once the City installs something it will be very difficult to get them to undo it, even if you can prove that it is harming resident’s health. They’ll run their own tests that will contradict findings by Health Organizations. I have fought for many years about the health problems of “close proximity of traffic to homes” from traffic fumes / dust/ noise. 8,400 vehicles per day (over 3 million per year) just 60 feet from bedrooms of children, just 80 feet from children on Holland Park basketball courts. If they install the tower and it causes health problems later; they won’t help you – pretty much “your health is not important” without them saying it; their lack of action says it all. See what no action looks like (health is not worth protecting): http://flpkdr.com/
A cell tower should never be placed by homes! The city needs to listen to the concerns of the residents and do the right thing. This neighborhood has many children that live there and play outside daily. Their health should not be taken away from them.
“”causes health problems”, I’ve looked all over the net and there is NO evidence supporting cell towers pose a health problem.
Sure they are ugly but if people complain about cell service , you pretty much have to have a tower (2) to receive good cell service. Regarding child safety, I worry more about unconcerned people speeding through the neighborhood and the sorry city water we have and the standing water after a storm.
Your are welcomed to have them installed in your backyard if you own a large acreage to no affect your neighbors while time and further research takes place as pre the American Cancer Sociery: Cell Phone Towers – American Cancer Society
“Some people have expressed concern that living, working, or going to school near a cell phone tower might increase the risk of cancer or other health problems. At this time, there isn’t a lot of evidence to support this idea. Still, more research is needed to be sure”.