It appears locals will soon be getting cellphone reception over the objections of some beach residents.
Bay County commissioners overrode a recommendation from the county planning commission to approve the construction of a new cellphone tower on the west end of Panama City Beach. Commissioners say the benefits outweigh the concerns of the neighborhood.
Residents from Jamaican Lake and surrounding areas showed up at Tuesday's morning Bay County Commissioner meeting hoping commissioners would stick with the recommendation of the planning commission and reject the appeal that would call for a a new cellphone tower to be constructed.
"We all want service on the west end," said Robert Albers, president of the homeowners association for Jamaican Lake. "But that's not really the issue here. What's at issue here today is whether the location is the right location."
One of the reasons the planning commission didn't want the cellphone tower to be constructed is because it is too close to the property line. According to certain laws, a cellphone tower is supposed to be 90 feet away from the property line, however the proposed cellphone tower will only be 57 feet away from the property line.
However the people requesting the variance to build the tower claim they've exhausted all their options.
"The fact that the applicant sent out 11 letters, saturated the area with looking for a place to put the cellphone tower...this is after they did all their due diligence to find the spot," said Bay County Commissioner Bill Dozier. "This is the one spot they found that was the best for that area."
Other beach residents tried to build a case for commissioners citing the inability to use their phones for medical emergencies or work.
In the end, the commissioners voted unanimously to overturn the planning commission's recommendation and grant the variance for the new cellphone tower.
The tower company plans to rent space to all of the major cellphone service providers. There hasn't been a set start date for construction.