There will be a new cell phone tower going up between the Delwood community and The Preserve on Panama City Beach with the approval of the Bay County commission. But neighbors who have consistently fought this request were absent from Tuesday’s meeting, and now they're ready to fight back, even though it might be too late.
The Bay County Planning Commission initially denied a request from Louisiana Unwired for permission to build the 120-foot cell tower on private property between the two Panama City Beach neighborhoods. But no neighbors were present during Tuesday’s vote at the commission meeting when the commissioners authorized a cell tower.
Commissioner George Gainer says the noticed lack of opposition was for the benefit of Louisiana Unwired. "I think one reason you don't see a lot of people protesting here today is because of where you finally put it. That was a very good location."
Not all residents agree, and some say the county commissioners knew there were opponents. John Caylor, a resident at Delwood Point, heard about the decision showed and up at the very end of the meeting.
"Has the board approved this tower? Yes it has. Did the board hear any testimony from any neighbors in Delwood, The Preserve or anywhere around Bay Point?"
Local attorney Mitch Dever owns the property that currently houses a small business complex and a sewage treatment plant. Dever says he's glad it's finally been approved and does not think it will be an eyesore to his neighbors. He too says he didn't think anyone would be too upset.
But Caylor was angry that no neighbors were aware of Tuesday’s decision.
"Nobody knew this meeting was going to take place. We're homeowners out there and surely… We got a notice from the planning commission back when they intended to hold a meeting and we had the room packed of really angry people."
County Commissioner Mike Thomas says it's not there responsibility to ensure every resident knows about every agenda item, when it's already listed on the agenda.
"I don't know how in the world that we can do a better job unless you mail everyone in the county a letter every time. I think it's important for people to be more involved."
Eric Grindeland, a representative with the Homeowner's Association for the Preserve and Delwood Point told Newschannel Seven they will stay involved and look into all avenues of appeal. He says the commissioners should have realized there are opponents to this deal and waited to consider their opinion before a decision was made.
The attorney for Louisiana Unwired says they will initially host Sprint services on its tower, but will rent space to other cell companies as well.