For betterment of the city: Mayor, investigate tower lease

ashton hayward
In a face-to-face interview with Shannon Nickinson of the Studer Community Institute, Mayor Ashton Hayward said he wants to put past mistakes behind him and move city government forward for the betterment of the community.

One area that would have a significant impact is investigating the cell tower replacement in the Long Hollow Conservation area – which some believe may hurt the stormwater pond’s capacity.

This is the issue that Melanie Nichols, president of the North Hill Preservation Association, believes earned the ire of City Administrator Eric Olson and led to the city official trying to cause trouble for her at work.

Nichols sums up the issue in the email below. She used her personal email account.

Here are her points:

* Years ago, Long Hollow basin was reclassified as Conservation Area so it could be used and preserved as a stormwater retention area. The Conservation designation is in the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

* The original 125-ft.tower was grandfathered in as non-conforming structure. Therefore, it can not be expanded, enlarged or replaced.

* In 2012, the city renewed the lease. Under the Comprehensive Plan, it should have been allowed to expire.

* The owner wants to expand tower to 400 ft. The city has granted construction permits.

* The cell tower has subleased the tower to another company. Subleasing must be approved by the city council.

Nichols and the North Hill residents want the tower lease terminated.

From: Melanie Nichols
Date: Thu, May 14, 2015 at 10:01 PM
To: Mayor Hayward , aterhaar@cityofpensacola.com, Brian Spencer , cbare@cityofpensacola.com, smyers@cityofpensacola.com, ljohnson@cityofpensacola.com, gwingate@cityofpensacola.com, pcwu@cityofpensacola.com, jcannada-wynn@cityofpensacola.com, eolson@cityofpensacola.com
Cc: Mark Abramson

Dear Mayor, City Council Members, and City Administrator,

I respectfully request that the City Council terminate the lease agreement with Divine Word Radio Inc. for use of the Long Hollow Storm Pond area for the placement of their radio broadcast tower.

This area is in a Conservation District which allows for use as a storm water pond (which our City desperately needs) and this zoning does not allow for non-conforming structures to be expanded, enlarged, or replaced, which Divine Word is planning to do when they replace their 125 foot tower with a 400 foot tower. As I have stated before you at Council meetings, the EXISTING tower which was built prior to the 1990’s when the property was changed to Conservation District, was allowed to be maintained, but NOT enlarged or replaced. Once you adopted those changes to the Comprehensive Plan, the tower and all its outbuildings, became a non-conforming structure. The issuance of any construction permits for replacement of the existing tower are in direct violation of the Comprehensive Plan. This Conservation District was in place years prior to the renewal lease agreement that Council made with Divine Word Inc. in 2012. I believe that a grave error was made in 2012 when Public Works brought this lease agreement to the Council since it was in direct violation of the City Council adopted Comprehensive Plan.

(From the Comprehensive Plan)
Conservation District: The Conservation Land Use District is established to preserve open space as necessary for protecting water resources, preserving scenic areas, preserving historic sites, providing parklands and wilderness reserves, conserving endemic vegetation, preventing flood damage and soil erosion. This future land use category shall apply to environmentally sensitive areas identified on the Future Land Use Map and protected from development pursuant to site plan review. The following generalized uses are permitted:

(a) Wildlife and vegetation conservation:
Wildlife refuge, nature trails and related facilities
(b) Recreational facilities:
Passive recreation
Bike trails
Jogging trails
(c) Other similar and compatible conservation and recreational uses:
Boat moorings, fishing piers, drainage areas, etc.

The radio tower with all its outbuildings and guide wire supports is preventing the expansion and dredging of this area of the City-owned pond for increased capacity which is needed in our community. The recently published Long Hollow Storm Water Basin Report that was commissioned by the City after the April 29, 2014 flood determined that our Long Hollow pond is NOT meeting its 25-year storm requirements, much less the Mayor’s recommended, and City Council approved on May 14, increase of capacity from a 25-year storm to a 100-year storm capacity.

This City owned land is vitally needed for an expansion of the Long Hollow Pond which is our City’s largest pond and our first line of defense to prevent flooding in Long Hollow, North Hill, Seville, Aragon, and hundreds of Downtown businesses and employers that we depend upon for our city’s economic success and growth. As a City Council, you have sought and received expert engineering advice and have received the Long Hollow Storm Water Basin Report which outlines the needed repairs and added capacity that must be put in place to meet the minimum requirements.

Fortunately for the City as a whole, you have the ability to move forward with our storm water improvements because you CAN cancel the lease agreement. Divine Word Radio, Inc. is in violation of their lease agreement with you because they have sub-leased space on the radio tower to Omni Broadcasting, LLC, as you will see in the attachments that I have provided from the FCC. This additional equipment, for a different licensed radio station (not owned by Divine Word), was never approved by City Council for placement on the tower as required by the Lease Agreement.

Please cancel the lease. It is NOT in the best interest of thousands of citizens who pay storm water taxes and own property within the Long Hollow Storm Water Basin, and depend on that pond to function at its maximum capacity to prevent the future flooding of homes and businesses. It is not in our City’s best interest to allow taxpayer owned property to line the pockets of one businessman while the rest of us suffer the financial consequences of the City NOT utilizing our largest storm water pond in its maximum capacity.

Thank you for all the work that you do for our City, our whole City.

Respectfully,

Melanie A. Nichols

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