Staff to recommend taller light poles on Longboat

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Following a consultant’s recommendation, Longboat Key town staff is recommending 35-foot light and small cell poles along Gulf of Mexico Drive and 25-foot high in the neighborhoods.

The issue, which is one of the only outstanding decisions remaining in the town-wide undergrounding of its utilities, will be discussed at a May 20 Town Workshop.

The Town was waiting on a radio frequency analysis showing how many fixtures and at what spacing would be necessary relative to various pole heights. The Town Commission and many residents have urged for lower light pole heights to allow a more neighborhood-defined ambiance.

That desire is in direct opposition to the goal of spreading a wireless system through antennas. In short, taller poles broadcast further and the overall cost of a town-wide system goes down.

The Town’s private partner, Waterleaf, analyzed two specific radio frequency models. One for pole heights at 35 feet on Gulf of Mexico Drive and 25 feet in the neighborhoods. The other study was for shorter poles, 25 feet on Gulf of Mexico Drive and 15 feet in the neighborhoods.

The study created maps showing that there was a dramatic increase in coverage when pole heights were increased to 35 feet.

On the north end of the island for instance, it would take 21 antennas to provide adequate coverage if the poles are taller at 35 feet on Gulf of Mexico Drive and 25 feet in the neighborhoods. If the lower poles were to be used on the north end, the 25-foot on Gulf of Mexico Drive and the 15-foot in the neighborhood variety, a total of 27 small cell antennas or an increase of 29 percent would be necessary.

The taller light poles would end up costing almost double because of the need for 113 small cell antennas versus 72 island-wide.

In short, Waterleaf says the modeling does not support the investment cost in putting in the shorter poles.

This issue has turned laborious for the commission as it represents not only one of the final decisions, but also how the project will physically look when it is done.

The commission on Monday will also look at numerous examples of renderings and pictures of light-fixtures as well as areas nearby featuring poles at the suggested heights.

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