by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
Sanibel Planning Commission unanimously voted Tuesday, Dec. 10, to continue a request for installation of a 55-foot Ham Radio antenna at a residence under construction in the Shell Harbor subdivision. The second public hearing is scheduled for 9:05 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14, at City Hall, 800 Dunlop Rd.
Plans for the antenna were referred to the Planning Commission due to raising questions as to its compliance with the Sanibel Code Section 86-43 or appearance of structures, size and mass of structures. City Attorney John Agnew told commissioners to be “cognizant of limited federal preemption of state and local regulations pertaining to amateur radio facilities.”
Agnew explained the preemption is rooted in the fact there is strong federal interest in promoting amateur radio communications, which are only as effective as the antennas employed. He advised that any consideration by the commission of restrictions on the proposed antenna based on Code 86-43 must not be so restrictive as to preclude the amateur communications and represent the minimum necessary to accomplish the purpose of the code.
The proposed antenna tower would retract to a 21-foot height and pivot horizontally when not in use for a majority of the year. The plans, submitted on behalf of the property owner Robert Greenheck, indicated it would be slim in design, neutral in color and situated within a well-landscaped location on the property that will be substantially buffered from off-site.
However, commissioners questioned its location on the property and Commissioner Eric Pfeifer questioned the size and aesthetics of the antenna, not just the tower, which was not illustrated in the proposed plans. Pfeifer also queried if the antenna would be fully extended the entire time Greenheck would be in residence.
“(The antenna) could be a lot wider and because this falls under 86-43 I think it’s a fair request to us sitting up here to see that, but also to the neighbors to give them an opportunity to review the appearance and size of the antenna,” Pfeifer said.
The issue of birds potentially nesting on the antenna or its tower was raised, especially with abundant Osprey activity in the Shell Harbor neighborhood. Deputy Director of Natural Resources Holly Milbrandt told commissioners any bird nests built on the antenna or tower could not be legally removed while active, and a permit is not required to remove the nest once it’s inactive.
Island resident Claudia Burns, who is a member of the National Osprey Foundation, recommended the Greenhecks ask the foundation to erect an Osprey nesting platform on their property to prevent the birds from being tempted to nest on the antenna.
Chair Chuck Ketteman said the commissioners could entertain a motion to approve or deny the proposal or direct the applicant to listen to what he heard in the public hearing. “I personally propose we direct the applicant to do his homework and come back to us with what antenna will be used and to consider the feedback on location,” said Ketteman.