- Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 April 2011 00:00
- Published on Wednesday, 20 April 2011 00:00
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County Planning Commission seeks more answers
A recommendation to go to the King George Board of Supervisors for a special exception permit request for a 195-foot monopole cell tower in a residential subdivision has been postponed.
Following a public hearing on April 12, the Planning Commission voted to put off making a recommendation on the proposed cell tower until they get answers from county staff to some questions
posed by six adjacent and nearby residents commenting on the request at last week’s meeting.
The special exception request was submitted by New Cingular Wireless PCS, LCC (AT&T) on a request by Edward L. Donohue to be located on property owned by Russell and Nicole Pickeral at 9421 Caledon Road. The 5.876 acre property is identified on Tax Map 15, Parcel 38A, which contains an existing residence and is zoned Rural Agricultural (A-2).
The telecommunication facility would be owned and operated by AT&T. A telecommunication facility is a commercial use that is allowed in this zoning only by special exception granted by the Board of Supervisors.
The tower would be located at least 400 feet from any existing dwelling on property other than the Pickeral property.
RCC Consultants, Inc, is contracted by the county to analyze and provide a recommendation regarding cell tower construction when an application is made.
RCC’s John Hitch was present at the Planning Commission meeting and the consultant is recommending that the special exception permit be approved contingent on additional landscaping to be installed to help shield the base of the tower from the nearby houses and a church.
Hitch said his firm’s recommendation was based on the following conclusions: AT&T Wireless’ coverage does exhibit a significant coverage gap in the area described; no existing site is practical to sufficiently fill in the coverage gap; and, the proposed site does provide effective coverage in the desired area.
The staff recommends approval under the conditions specified in a draft Special Exception Permit which include the following key provisions: A requirement for King George County to be allowed to install equipment on the tower at no cost; co-location to be provided for up to an additional four carriers; that the tower not be lighted since it is not required by the FAA for the tower at a height of 195 feet; and security fencing to be provided around the base of the tower.
Tracy Anderson, representing AT&T, spoke in favor of the proposal noting that the company agreed to all recommendations and requirements by RCC and staff.
Six adjacent landowners or near-neighbors spoke, with a few stating opposition to the special exception request and some posing questions.
Most of those commenting contradicted the applicant, RCC and that staff’s finding that a tower was needed at the proposed site, saying that cell phone service is fine at that location.
Residents Pat Hayden and Elizabeth Hunter also said they were planning on constructing a house on their adjacent lot and were concerned there might be issues due to proximity to the tower, adding they had checked on another tower and noted a low-pitched droning sound.
Near neighbor Eugene Rushing said he had concerns about his property’s sell-value declining and he inquired about any ill environmental effect on eagles that nest nearby.
Shelia and Don Baker expressed concern about the 195-foot monopole adding clutter to the scenic view, saying they “moved to the country to be in the country.”
Calvin White, with the First Baptist Church, said it had been offered a 30-year lease by AT&T, which it had declined due to concerns about the length of the lease and whether the tower might have any ill effect on children.
Following the public hearing, Planning Commissioners discussed the concerns expressed. Jack Green, Director of Community Development and author of the staff report, stated that he had not been made aware of any environmental impact from towers of this type.
Regarding the complaint about a droning noise from a similar facility in the county, Green said he wanted the location of that tower site, adding that the RCC representative would check it out. Green said he had been advised that the sound could be due to faulty equipment.
Commissioner Chris Cox said he drove a route by the location frequently and said that while there is analog cell phone coverage in that specific area, there is no signal for 3G or future 4G coverage. The RCC rep concurred, saying, “We checked their claim and agree that they are not able to properly cover their market.”
Commissioner Karla Frank requested the ATT rep to address potential devaluation of properties due to cell towers. Anderson said she would supply studies to the county, noting, “They have found there is no documented decrease in sell-value.”
Commissioner Gary Kendrick suggested there was no particular rush to make a recommendation, noting the commission should have the opportunity to review the sell-value studies and get other answers back from staff, including the noise issue. A majority of the commissioners agreed.
The matter is expected to come back to the Planning Commission at one of its monthly meetings in May or June.
Following receipt of a recommendation from the Planning Commission, the Board of Supervisors will authorize advertisement of another public hearing on the matter and take additional comment on the permit request prior to any decision on the matter.