By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
Greene County Planning Commission’s November meeting was dominated by a wireless facilities application. AT&T’s representative, Cheryl Taylor from Velocitel, Inc. requested a Special Use Permit (SUP 13-006) to construct a cell tower in western rural Greene County.
Bart Svoboda explained that the requested location is off Route 810 near the town of Geer on the property of John and Barbara Hayes. The SUP is for a tower with a height of 199 feet, just below the 200 foot level that requires lighting be included. The proposed location is 40 feet into the woods and the proposal is for either a silver or brown pole. Below is an applicant generated photo representation from Route 810 as to what the appearance of the tower would be. Svoboda explained that the smaller picture in the lower left hand corner is the view from the road. The larger picture is a magnification of the same picture in order to show the tower.
Taylor addressed the Planning Commission explaining their company (Velocitel, Inc) has been contracted by AT&T to find a location where coverage is currently missing (a radius of .5 mile is diameter). Currently Route 810 is not a scenic highway although the process is underway for it to be considered one.
Comments from the public were adamant against the cell tower in the specific location proposed by Velocitel. Nine speakers commented on the SUP, all opposing the request for a variety of reasons. Several speakers, including Pastor Gordon Merryweather of the Mount Vernon United Methodist Church , spoke in opposition stating that the tower would be directly in the view from their church. He further explained that the church is constructing a meditation area that looks directly at the area where the tower is proposed and asked that the view be maintained as it is.
Beth Lane, whose house is in the lower right corner of the picture above, is not against improving cell reception in the area, but asked that other locations away from the neighborhood and church be looked at before a decision is made. Another speaker noted that Albemarle County approves shorter towers and that may help the issue. A final citizen proposed that the tower be located further up the mountain, therefore requiring less of the tower to be exposed in order to get the height being requested.
The Planning Commission discussed several options such as moving the tower up the mountain. This however would require a roadway to be cut out and a level pad be created which would be more visible. The option of having the tower shorter prohibits other cell providers from attaching to the tower and therefore may generate more request for towers from other providers and the need for more towers since a shorter tower provides a smaller range of service.
Chairman Jay Willer suggested that Taylor meet with the church members and others that live in the Geer area to see if an agreement could be reached that would be satisfactory to both parties. With that agreement made, the Commission voted unanimously to defer the SUP until 2/19/14, leaving enough time for the two parties to meet and hopefully come to an agreement.
Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.
The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.