Other contributors to this article: Jack McWalter
See BocaFirst’s article Boca’s Public Safety Communications Dilemma for background on the issue of communications towers.
Both Police and Fire Rescue of the County and the City depend on communications towers for reliable communications in their everyday activities. Current government compliance standards require the City and County to upgrade their public safety communications equipment. The County equipment must be at 400’ and the City’s at 200’. So rather than increase tower pollution with two towers, an agreement was approved in June to take down the existing 180’ City tower and build a single 400’ tower in a nearby corner of the property. That solves the problem for both County and City. But that was then.
Glades Road Self Storage LLC has a 511 foot tall 25 year old radio tower on its property at Glades and the Turnpike adjacent to Boca Muni Golf course. According to the County Property Appraiser, the property owner is “Sunshine Wireless Co”.
Except for two antennas down low on the tower, the Glades Road Self Storage tower appears empty. Its guy-wires spread across the property from 7 places up the tower in what looks like a web of 24 wires. In the June 11 City Council meeting, the attorney for the property owner Ele Zacharaides said:
“There’s the opportunity to perhaps put an antenna on our current tower.”
and Dan Cohen who identified himself as an “Owner of the tower and storage facility” told the City Council:
“work with us to see if there’s other solutions to these issues.”
But on August 2nd, Glades Road Self Storage LLC filed a lawsuit against Palm Beach County, the County Commissioners and GL Homes (the pending purchaser of the Boca Muni golf course). The suit seeks to stop the City/County single tower plan. The City is not named in the suit.
The lawsuit claims:
- The County did not have a legitimate basis to allow waivers to relocate the existing City tower
- The process was rigged and the County deprived Glades Road Self Storage due process
- Maintaining adequate emergency communications does not override the County Code and rights of adjacent property owners
If you really wanted to plan it better and beautify West Boca, you would move the few antennae on the nearly empty 511’ Glades Road Self Storage tower to the newer 350’ Turnpike Tower (below), remove the 25 year old 511’ guy-wire webbed tower and build a modern 400’ tower that the City and the County require for public safety. That reduces the number of towers to two and lowers the “tower horizon” thus genuinely beautifying the West Boca area through better planning.
An organization named “Keep West Boca Raton Beautiful” which is run by “The Coalition for Better Planning in West Boca” popped up in May 2019. They collected 1,400 signatures against having a 400’ tower. It claims on its “Fast Facts” web page (among other things):
- There is no need to build a 400’ tower
- Property values will be reduced
- A tower on the golf course “is too much”
KeepWestBocaBeautiful.org has a tabloid style and the trappings of a fake news site or PAC that is familiar to Boca Ratonians. Two of its four pages are the same article and haven’t been updated since July 15 when the lobbying/signature collection campaign fizzled out. The fourth page is the “About Us” page and according to the map, the organization is located in the parking lot of the West Boca Place Plaza which is located …. wait for it …. right next to Glades Road Self Storage. The site gives no suite number or address. Upon examination:
- Neither “Keep West Boca Beautiful” or “Coalition for Better Planning in West Boca” are listed in the West Boca Place Plaza directory.
- A specific person or address within the plaza is not given on the website or Facebook page.
- Neither “Keep West Boca Beautiful” or “Coalition for Better Planning in West Boca” is registered with the State of Florida Division of Corporations (aka Sunbiz).
- No HOA’s from the area are listed as supporters.
- The “Find Out More” button does nothing.
- There are no credentials listed for being knowledgeable in the tower industry.
- No solution for County public safety compliance is provided.
- There’s nothing about any other issue in West Boca. The website/Facebook page are singularly focussed on preventing approval of a 400’ tower by the Boca Raton City Council.
In spite of all that, Glades Road Self Storage trusted their authenticity and included the 1,400 signatures in their lawsuit. One wonders why.
Boca Raton City Council Withdraws
The Boca Raton City Council said it’s critical for the City to have a new communications tower sooner than later. That was the reason given by council members to move forward back in June. Council Members Rodgers and Thomson argued to delay. Mayor Singer and Council Members Mayotte and O’Rourke argued delaying was a risk to public safety.
Regardless, the lawsuit delayed the single tower solution. So in order to maintain public safety, the City passed Resolution 96-2019 on August 27 to withdraw from the June agreement and get to work as soon as possible on a new tower adjacent to its existing 180’ tower.
Careful What You Wish For
Due to the lawsuit and lobbying by Keep West Boca Beautiful, the area may end up with 4 towers totaling 1,461 feet versus the ideal 2 towers and 750 feet. The County is on its own to duke it out in court to keep the corner location or decide not to proceed and just claim a different portion of the Boca Muni Golf course for its 400’ tower. That fourth tower location will likely reduce the number of homes possible and with fewer possible homes, legal expenses, two towers on the Boca Muni property, plus two on adjacent properties, GL Homes may consider a renegotiation of the purchase price. Perhaps a significant reduction.
So, Who Wins?
The court will decide if the plan to put a 400’ tower in the corner of the Boca Muni property was legally flawed. Regardless of the outcome:
- Boca residents will have to pay for a new 200’ tower.
- The City may lose income on the sale of the golf course.
- County residents may pay to be renters on a privately owned tower or pay the entire $3M cost of a 400’ tower.
- Area residents may have both City 200’ and County 400’ towers in addition to the 511’ Glades Road Self Storage tower and the 350’ “Turnpike Tower” just east of the turnpike.
- Palm Beach County taxpayers will pay the legal expenses for the lawsuit and has lost a financial partner for tower construction.
- County first responders now face a delay in obtaining crucial communications equipment and being compliant with government standards.
Residents pay for all of it. Maybe it’s not so much “who wins?” but “who loses?”