Cities Fight to Keep Cell Phone Towers Out of Neighborhoods

Environmentalists say they cold also end up on endangered lands. However, the companies say they need more towers to protect you.

Ask just about anyone what they think of a cell tower and the response is predictable.

Jerry Hassler, guidance counselor, said, “Well, it's not exactly beautiful."

Do people want one in their neighborhood?

Cheryll Simmons, nurse case manager, said, “probably not.”

But a cell phone tower could be coming to a neighborhood near you if the companies can pass legislation now pending at the state Capitol.

City officials say the bill guts their ability to regulate where the towers go. In a rare coalition, environmentalists are joining the cities in the battle.

Eric Draper of Audubon Florida, said, “This is an assault on the environment, and an assault on neighborhoods. They would be able to put cell phone towers just about anywhere without public input, without environmental review.”

The cell phone companies say they need more towers not to provide better coverage, but to comply with federally mandated 9-1-1 service.

We found Bell South lobbyists meeting with the bill's sponsor, trying to move it in the Legislature's final days. They wouldn't talk with us, but bill sponsor Mike Bennett calls it a necessity.

Sen. Mike Bennett, (R) Bradenton, said, “What this bill allows people to do is at any kind of an accident anywhere they can dial 9-1-1 on their cell phone and emergency people would be able to locate them within 50 feet or 100 feet."

At a news conference, the cities say they didn't buy the EMS argument.

The bill could come up for a vote anytime before Friday. Under the new legislation, cell phone companies would no longer have to prove they need new towers, leaving local government powerless to limit the number of towers and antennae within their borders.