SARASOTA, Florida. – Hidden River is a unique community in Sarasota County where pilots are neighbors and planes are used for fun. Some residents, though, are concerned that their open airspace could be disrupted by plans to build a nearly 200-foot cell tower.
According to Tom Edleston, who lives in the Hidden River Airport area, the proposed cell tower would be in the path of their direct flight.
“There is a camaraderie of all the other pilots and an experience that everyone shares with each other to ensure safety,” Edleston said.
He and his community of pilots are opposed to the proposed tower for safety reasons.
“If they have an engine failure, they will instinctively turn right, lose altitude, try to turn back and crash into this tower, or at least this is another fact to remember and take into account in an emergency,” Edleston said.
Communication Tower Group is a company from North Carolina that has applied for the construction of the tower. The company has clients such as Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile.
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The company is asking for a special exemption for a 195-foot cell tower on property owned by a non-pilot family next door.
“In an emergency, this cell tower will become an obstacle. It will be a disaster,” said Hidden River community resident Don Martheny. “We just don’t want it to be right at the end of our runway.”
If the property belonged to a commercial airport, the FAA would require further investigation. In the 10 years since 2008, the National Agricultural Aviation Association has documented 40 tower-related aircraft accidents, including 36 fatalities.
“Smaller versions of cellular systems exist and they only need short 10-15 foot towers or put them somewhere else. Everything else will be less intrusive,” said local resident Jeff Johnson.
The company is in the pre-application process. Before plans go into action, residents hope the tower will be grounded. Other residents of Old Miakka also expressed their concerns, including drainage and flooding, visibility from surrounding areas, and incompatibility with the countryside.
The company may complete its application within a month or so.
“If you want to install a cell tower, don’t place it in the traffic pattern of an established aviation community,” Edleston said.