Fluvanna Planners Reject Cell Tower in Fork Union

By William J. Des Rochers,  Fluvanna Field Officer

Fluvanna’s, and more particularly Fork Union’s, cell phone and broadband service remained elusive as ever when the Planning Commission unanimously recommended rejection of Verizon’s proposal to place a monopole (“flag pole”) cell tower in the Village.  The August 27th decision will go to the Board of Supervisors for final decision.

Previously, when the Commissioners deferred the request for a special use permit, they hoped that the carrier could come up with alternative sites.  After modeling several alternative sites, Verizon returned to the Planning Commission and requested permission to install it at its original proposed location:  the William Frank hotel site.

The monopole would have been three feet at the base and tapered to eighteen inches at the top of the 125 foot tower.  It also would have held at least one flag and allowed room for other providers.  Citizen opposition, again led by the President of the Fork Union Military Academy, was too much for Verizon to overcome, however. 

Commissioner Angus Murdock (Columbia) said:  “I’m going to defer to the Academy”.  Mr. Murdoch also called on staff to move quickly to develop a telecommunications policy for the Commission to consider:  “we need to get on the ball with the ordinance”, he said.  Planning Director Darren Coffey later assured him that the process was well under way.

Commissioner Joe Chesser (Rivanna) concurred with Murdock’s opposition:  “we need to respect their (Fork Union residents’) views”.  Commissioner Sam Babbitt (Fork Union) expressed frustration that Verizon did not find an acceptable alternative site:  “I’m questioning their commitment to do what we asked”, he stated.

 Ordinance Changes Approved

Without dissent, the Commissioners also adopted changes to the subdivision and zoning ordinances necessitated by a recent court ruling that stated central wastewater treatment systems did not require a special use permit.  The changes make clear that it will be required once the Board of Supervisors approves them.

According to county attorney Frederick W. Payne, the developers of the Central Meadows property and the originators of the lawsuit, may or may not fall under the new ordinance.  While Mr. Payne did not elaborate, he apparently was referring to the concept of “vesting”.  If sufficient work has been done on a project, it can be said to have vested should ordinances change, and thus grandfathered.


Other Commission Actions

In other actions, Planning Commissioners unanimously recommended approval of a rezoning application by Serenity Partners to rezone 14.8 acres in the Palmyra district from A-1 (General) to I-1 (Limited).  Several residents opposed the rezoning request, specifically because of traffic and drainage concerns. 

The Commissioners also unanimously approved several site development plans, including:

·        A request by Macon Partners LLP to construct 27 additional parking spaces at the Food Lion (Rivanna district);

·        A request to install two propane storage tanks (with a total capacity of 24,000 gallons) in the Zion Crossroads area (Palmyra district);

·        A request to install a wireless communications monopole (AT&T) on 47 acres at the northwest corner of the intersection of Poorhouse Road and Route 616 (Palmyra district); and,

·        The sketch plan for the new high school.

The last item provided some insight into how the school administration proposes to implement portions of the value engineering study.  School Superintendent Thomas W.D. Smith informed the Commission that he intends to recommend to the School Board that it eliminate two practice fields, and reduce parking to accommodate space for physical education.

According to Dr. Smith, the space is not needed for the initial phase of the high school and could be reconfigured when it became necessary.  He also said that some practice fields might have to be deferred if too costly.

The engineers also said that some parking would be placed on top of a 300,000 rainwater retention tank, which will be used to irrigate the “competition” athletic fields.


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