9 Investigates cellphone towers facing resistance in residential areas



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - If you want to keep a massive cellphone tower from going up in your backyard, you'd better try to stop it before it's built.

Cell phone towers aren't just big business, they're being backed by government agencies as land lines begin to vanish.

Investigative reporter Christopher Heath uncovered just how far one company was prepared to go to build a tower, and how residents were able to stop it in its tracks.

West Orange County resident Rozanna Hernandez was skeptical when a representative for a cell tower company asked for her signature to build a new tower.

"They couldn't do the original plan that they had because they would need our signature," Hernandez said.

She thought by saying no, it would stop the tower.

Instead, the company moved the tower a dozen feet, legally, no longer needing her "OK," since her home was now technically outside the tower's radius.

"This is not a commercial area, industrial area, this is a residential area," Hernandez said.

But residential areas are where towers are most needed due to the dense population.

Facing cries of "not in my backyard" companies have gotten creative, disguising towers as flag poles, trees and even religious symbols, like a cross off Curry Ford Road.

The reason so many towers are being built is due to smartphones, which need on average 35 percent more coverage than a standard cellphone.

William Cierebiej helped lead the fight against a west Orange County tower, which eventually was voted down by planning and zoning.

The state is under pressure to build more towers. Not only are cell companies willing to pay, but E911 legislation requires local governments to consider coverage needs.

It means while residents in one neighborhood kept their view unobstructed, as populations grow, it may only be a matter of time.

The state in general has laws that can keep cell towers out of residential areas, however, cities are discouraged from doing so if the ban reduces coverage specifically of 911.