A radio tower set to be built at a Hollywood park left local residents concerned about the park’s protected lands and its future.
The Broward County Commission voted 8-1 to approve a new 911 radio tower to be built at West Lake Park, Tuesday.
The land at the park is protected. However, commissioner Dr. Barbara Sharief said public safety is more important, especially after the shootings at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
During the tragedies, radio issues prevented first responders from communicating with each other because the system was overloaded with too much traffic.
“Public safety is always worth breaking a restrictive covenant for because the lives of our residents must be placed above anything else,” Sharief said.
Protesters could be seen outside the park chanting, “Save West Lake Park.”
With Tuesday’s vote, the county approved a $60 million upgrade that will add seven new radio towers for a total of 16 throughout the county.
One of those towers will be built in West Lake Park.
“We have looked at the issues time and time again when it comes to communications, and that falls under the county, but at the same time, as a first responder, it impacts our ability to safely and effectively respond to calls for services when people’s lives are on the line,” BSO Sheriff Gregory Tony said.
The park is protected by a restrictive covenant, meaning there are limits as to what the county can do with the land because of its wetlands, mangroves and wildlife.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has specific guidelines for building towers,” Matthew Schwartz said. “Specifically, they say, ‘Do not build in or near wetlands. Do not build near bird-nesting areas.'”
“I have children that live in that community that enjoy that park, and putting a tower there will just destroy the park,” concerned resident Andrea Zimmerman said.
However, commissioner Michael Udine said the tower was not going to “ruin the park.”
“Your children are still going to be able to play there,” Udine said. “The birds are still gonna be able to fly there. It’s the optimal place.”
Residents instead wanted to have the tower built on top of a hotel along Young Circle.
“From my vantage point, I still think that the Circ is the best alternative in one where we don’t have to make such choice, that we don’t have to break a covenant,” commissioner Beam Furr said.
In the end, commissioners said the need to get it done was more important than making changes to a natural habitat.
“I think we would be endangering health and safety of the community not to be building this,” Commissioner Steve Geller said.
County officials said the tower will cost $750,000 to build at the park, and it would have cost $2 million to build it on top of the hotel.
Residents said a possible lawsuit is their next step.