Long Hollow

Pensacola City Council missed opportunity to stop radio tower completion

December 14, 2015

anger01x300In February, Councilman Brian Spencer tried to add to the agenda for the next council meeting a discussion of the radio tower being built in the Long Hollow Conservation District and the ground lease for the tower.

He needed six votes to have it added, but the item failed after he received only three other votes.

Spencer’s motion came after a PNJ article on the cease and desist order that stopped construction of the tower. The reporter interviewed Melanie Nichols and others who voiced their concerns about the tower.

In defense of this motion, Spencer talked about his concerns about the lease agreement.

“We voted to approve the lease,” said Spencer. “I feel that that language in that lease should have some stipulations and some specificity regarding replacement.”

He talked of the possible impact of the tower on the flooding in the Long Hollow area and downtown.

“We also, at the time, certainly had not experienced the flood stormwater event that we now have as part of history of our city,” he said. “Evaluation and impact study has been done, solutions are being derived and the combination of both our previous lease action lack specificity under the term replacement and in addition to that what is happening with stormwater solutions that are necessary.”

He suggested, “Perhaps there is an opportunity for us to serve the community as well as this vendor in a positive way. I seek your approval so that we can discuss it in our next council meeting with others from our staff and experts weighing in.”

Councilwoman Jewel Cannada-Wynn didn’t want to discuss the lease unless the city offered the owner an alternative site. However, she didn’t say who would be responsible for finding the new site.

“I remember years ago we had an issue with the power and something, staff and the vendor and everything,” she said. “They went back to the table. If there’s an opportunity where this vendor instead that we maybe could find another piece of property that the city owns that would satisfy everybody concerned with this before we air everything on Thursday with this vendor.”

She said she was concerned about attorneys and lawsuits.

“Lawyers are going to have to be there and the vendor is going to have to be there and maybe we can look at some other alternatives where it may satisfy every one here concerned,” said Cannada-Wynn. “There’s an option for us to consider instead of having just a discussion where we may not get what we want. No one might get satisfied on Thursday, not with this particular issue.”

Councilman Gerald Wingate said, “I’ve noticed some people working over in that area and I was wondering are they complying with the different codes that the city has and the promise that the job will put the tower up?”

Spencer tried to answer Wingate’s question. City staff did not offer any information during the discussion.

“And it is my understanding that, and I would trust Mr. Wingate, that the city or building official issued a cease and desist because the construction work that was being done, that you observed, was not being done according to the, basically, the rigorous and proper inspection process for construction,” he said. “The general contractor has pulled the permit, has pulled away from the job and the work that has been done is significant in magnitude and will require much more, as I understand, than two weeks to undo.”

He also replied to Cannada-Wynn’s comments.

“I greatly appreciate my fellow council member Jewel Cannada-Wynn’s comments,” said Spencer. “I don’t believe that having this item as a discussion item in two weeks in any way negates perhaps what she is pointing us to. That’s why I’m not even suggesting this be an action item.”

He added, “I think that we can in that public forum ask many important questions that fellow council member Jewel Cannada-Wynn would like to ask. To answer the question, yes construction has been halted and there is not a permit in place to allow any further construction on that.”

Councilwoman Sherri Myers said she would not support the motion.

“I’m confused about the purpose of having the discussion without an action item,” she said. “I think given such short notice looks like quite a bit of 39 pages. I’m not going to support adding it on.”

She used this as an opportunity to discuss the reduction in council meetings.

“If we had our two meeting a month like we originally had I think this issue could have been addressed in two weeks,” said Myers. “Now we only have a meeting once a month and I think what’s going to happen people are going to be in situations where they’re going to want these kinds of add-on items.”

She added, “I don’t see an emergency. There’s been a stop order. It might be an emergency for the contractor but I’m just not pulling for rebuilding with this in terms of having a discussion about some action item. I’m not going to support it.”

Councilman Charles Bare said he would not support the discussion either.

“This is the first time I can remember an add-on item coming up through staff to us in an email, which it did,” he said. “That was a little bit bizarre when we got emailed about this from Mr. Wells and then we get lobbied by members of North Hill Preservation Association and others for my vote.”

He was concerned about how North Hill came to lobby him, not so much the issues surrounding the radio tower and the lease.

“I admit I’m curious enough to let it go to discussion to find out how that happened,’ said Bare. “How we got to the point where the North Hill Preservation Association was lobbying us to get six votes. I still wonder if their board even approved that message going out. I don’t think this is an emergency. I think it’s going to take a significant amount of time for them to right whatever they’ve done wrong.”

Like Myers, he felt there was no urgency to deal with the issues.

He said, “I understand they don’t have a contractor now. Subcontractor did the work. The contractor has now backed out. They’ve got a while to go before they can really do anything there. I think it’s a little too quick on this.”

Bare wanted to bring the issues up later.

“We need to take a little bit time out if we’re going to sit there and discuss this. Discussion on items when you don’t have all the facts it can be very dangerous. I know in the past we have had issues with towers and cell towers and everything. I just think we can take some more time on this. We don’t have to rush to judgment. So I won’t be supporting that one either.”

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The city council did not discuss the radio tower again until Nov. 12 –after city staff had issued the new contractor a permit and the tower construction was completed.

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