Not in their back yard

Audubon Park neighbors received disheartening news from AT&T Wireless Communications in their fight to keep the company from placing a cell-phone "monopole" in their neighborhood school (Electro-magnet school, June 1).

AT&T told neighbors that it could not place its pole on an alternative site at the abandoned Orlando Naval Training Center (NTC) because the developer struck a deal with the city that no cell-phone towers would be placed among the 3,000 houses and apartments (as well as 2 million square feet of office and retail space) being built there.

The announcement troubled neighbors for two reasons. By eliminating the NTC site, AT&T narrows its options for places to erect the tower. "Unfortunately, it is becoming harder to find alternate sites," AT&T attorney Lee Chotas told neighbors in a letter. The option AT&T is likely to resort to, neighbors fear, is the Audubon Park Elementary School.

Moreover, the deal between the city and the NTC's developer, Orlando Partners, seems to validate the concern Audubon Park neighbors have had all along: that a tower in your neighborhood almost guarantees lower property values. Jennifer Marvel, an Audubon Park resident, says values could drop by as much as 20 percent.

Asks Irby Push, the neighbors' attorney: "If it's objectionable in your neighborhood, why in the hell do you want it in ours?" He adds, "I don't understand the city's position on this at all."

AT&T has delayed a community meeting and pushed a mediation hearing to Jan. 15, 2001 -- past school-board and November elections.

Neighbors urged AT&T to hold the meeting to prove that the school is the tower's best location. In November 1996, AT&T argued at a county commission meeting that Audubon Park Elementary was an inadequate site for a cell-tower facility. At the time, AT&T was attempting to build a tower at Corrine Baptist Church, a half block from the school.