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Date of Issue: July 22, 2009

BIEO hears fertilizer ordinance, cell tower presentations

Members of the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials got an earful of presentations at their July 15 meeting in Anna Maria.

Sierra Club official Chris Costello said the club plans to have all Gulf coast governments establish ordinances restricting the use of certain types of fertilizer.

Costello presented a draft fertilizer ordinance approved for local government use by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

The ordinance would prohibit the use of nitrogen or phosphorous in fertilizers between June 1 and Sept. 30, Florida’s rainy season.

Costello said that the excessive use of these fertilizers has caused an increase in harmful algae in Florida coastal waters, damaging the water quality and environment.

St. Petersburg is the largest municipality on Florida’s west coast to pass a fertilizer ordinance. That ordinance becomes effective in 2010, Costello said, to give people and businesses time to adapt to the changes.

Costello said there are other fertilizers available for use that do not have nitrogen or phosphorous components. Additionally, use of compost is exempt from the ordinance.

Similar fertilizer ordinances are in place in Lee County, Sarasota County, Naples, Port Charlotte and Longboat Key.

Longboat Key Vice Mayor Bob Siekmann cautioned, however, that establishing the fertilizer ordinance on Longboat Key resulted in some “very emotional meetings,” and both sides of the issue became vocal on many occasions.

“Establishing the facts was a big problem,” he said. “Everyone has an opinion, but getting the facts was extremely difficult.”

DAS wireless communications

Representatives of SBA Advanced Wireless LLC made a brief presentation on how the antenna system operates.

Attorney Stacy Frank, an Anna Maria resident representing SBA, said she’s been involved in the legal aspects of the wireless communications industry since the early 1990s and that the Distributed Antenna System can eliminate ugly cell phone towers that proliferate in many areas of the country.

Chris Fagas of SBA described DAS as small antennas that go on top of existing utility poles. The antennas are connected by a fiber-optic cable using existing utility lines.

And there is no need to locate communications equipment at a facility on the Island, Fagas said. The fiber-optic network can be routed to a mainland location.

Fagas said SBA has identified a “need and demand” on Anna Maria Island. He said the DAS would allow cell phones to be used indoors and eliminate unsightly wireless communications devices — cell towers — such as in Holmes Beach.

DAS can be used by any number of carriers at the same time, he said.

Fagas said an SBA study has concluded that the entire Island and Longboat Key can be set up for service with just 29 DAS antennas, also called “nodules.” Only four nodules would be needed to service Anna Maria, while the majority would be on Longboat Key.

The nodules are not proposed for Holmes Beach.

Frank said SBA contacts wireless service providers to determine interest in DAS. If enough companies agree to use the system, SBA will then make presentations to Longboat Key and Anna Maria. Representatives have already entered into talks Bradenton Beach officials.

“It’s changing technology. It’s the way of the future,” said Frank. “If one company goes on the system, they will all go on,” she predicted.

“Right now, we’re just testing the waters to see if there is any interest among the Island cities,” Frank said.

Anna Maria City Commissioner Christine Tollette was pleased with the presentation.

“If we didn’t have to have a tower, I’d be a happy camper,” she said.

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