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Town Commissioners are Disregarding Science and Public Opinion

BLAKE FLEETWOOD
Guest Writer
blake@lbknews.com

Who Cares about Science…or Public Opinion? Clearly not the Town Commissioners.

The Town continues to take a bizarre — and wavering —position to increase the height restrictions for questionable, and possibly unsafe, 6 foot high lightning rods. In June, they said No to the higher rods, but in September, they voted Yes.

The issue will face a final decision at an upcoming meeting on October 5th.

But public opinion and the science are clear.

Last Spring, the Town and its Boards received more than 149 emails protesting the increased height for the odiously higher lightning rods.

Pete Rowan of Keep Longboat Special, a 1400 member organization dedicated to preserving the town’s character, said his group strongly opposes changing the height restrictions.  “We should listen to the residents and not the contractors.”

What has happened to the Will Of The People?

Island residents clearly don’t want the new intrusive rods.

The only support for changing the height rules comes from a single homeowner and a Sarasota salesman, who stands to make more money by promoting the higher, uglier, more fragile rods.

The taller rods may even be more dangerous to neighbors in high winds, a pressing concern with the growing number of hurricanes each year. Although there have been no house fires caused by lightning in LBK as far back as anyone, or the Fire Department, can remember, there have been dozens of high-wind hurricanes with more to come.

What happens if one of these tall rods blows off and smashes into a neighbor’s house or even worse, injures or kills someone? Can the town be sued for encouraging and permitting these unsafe taller rods when a perfectly safe, tried-and-true alternative, is readily available?

By an overwhelming majority, the residents of LBK clearly don’t want higher buildings or tall spikes mucking up their skyline. Longboat Key remains valuable real estate for its beauty and charm. Anything that makes the town uglier is bad for business. Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Opponents of changing the height rules have consistently called on the Town to bring in an expert to testify about the safety and efficacy of these new higher rods, but the Town refuses to do so.

In frustration, the residents were forced to seek out their own expert at a cost of $4,000.

World-renowned lightning expert, Professor Vladimir Rako from the University of Florida, explicitly told the Town Commissioners last June, “Tall masts (72 inches) do not offer any advantages in residential homes over the standard 12 inch high lightning rods.”

Professor Rako also said that these new lightning rods were not approved, or recommended, by the State of Florida Building Code for single-family homes. They are for larger buildings. So much for the science.

One expert said that the tall masts for lightning rods in residential buildings have been oversold, characterizing much of the marketing as over-hyped “junk science”.

The LBK News surveyed a dozen Florida-based lightning rod companies, and all recommended the standard Franklin lightning rods which are cheaper, only 12 inches tall, and can’t blow off as easily in high winds. This Franklin lightning rod has been the benchmark for 200 years.

This is why the LBK Commissioners voted for a six inch exemption for lightning rods at its June Meeting and specifically rejected the 6 foot higher limits.

They also graciously agreed to grandfather the tall lightning rods that had already been put up. Thus the homeowner, Boris Miksic, who was currently petitioning the Town, would have been protected.

Town Chooses to Believe The Salesman Over the Scientist

But instead of sticking to what they had agreed to in June — smaller lightning rods — the LBK Commissioners decided to believe the salesman over the scientist. They voted to give the lightning rod promoter, John Barber, everything he wanted. Mayor Ken Schneier, who voted against the taller, unproven rods, said “Barber doesn’t even live in Longboat Key.”

Who is being fooled here?

Blake Fleetwood was formerly a reporter at The NY Daily News and The New York Times. He taught urban studies at New York University

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1 Response for “Town Commissioners are Disregarding Science and Public Opinion”

  1. Chris Reid says:

    cool paper

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