Former city planner says city staff knew radio tower was illegal

grenadeElizabeth Schrey worked as a city planner for the City of Pensacola from December 2012-February 2015. She told Inweekly this morning that both her boss, Planning Services Director Sherry Morris, and Bill Weeks, the head of City Inspections, knew that the radio tower that Divine Word Communications wanted to build in the Long Hollow Conservation District was illegal.

“Sherry and Bill both knew the tower was against the comp plan,” said Schrey. “The one time the three of us spoke about it, they were practically laughing at how illegal it was–laughing that Council approved the lease in a conservation district.”

When Schrey said the City couldn’t issue a permit for a new tower, she said that Morris told her that she wasn’t going to bring it (the lease) back to Council and tell them that.

“Bill rolled his eyes and left,” said Schrey.

The former city planner said that she brought up the issue again after Melanie Nichols, president of the North Hill Preservation Association, came to City Hall to review the plans for the new tower.

“I again restated to Bill right then that we couldn’t issue the permit,” Schrey told Inweekly. “Sherry and Bill knew it was illegal and permitted it anyways.”

Schrey said that she lost her job during a “restructuring” of the Planning Services Department after she voiced opposition to another project–Manna Food Pantries wanting to build a warehouse in an area zoned residential under the Comprehensive Plan.

She said that Morris had instructed her to tell the City Council that the Manna proposal was legal because ‘the City attorney had determined the Comp. Plan didn’t apply.’

“(Morris) would have normally presented it to Council and only directed me to present it so that she wouldn’t be the one to lie about it to Council,” said Schrey. “I refused, on the grounds the Comp Plan did apply and therefore I wouldn’t lie to Council. I was almost immediately restructured.”

Note: This makes hearing directly from Morris even more critical for the Pensacola City Council.