By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
An oft repeated real estate axiom is “location, location, location”. The same could be said for most land use cases especially those involving wireless communication towers.
Greene County has been engaged in such a conversation over the past few months. At their first April meeting the Greene County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing regarding Velocitel, Inc and the John & Barbara Hayes Revocable Trust request for a Special Use Permit (SUP) for a wireless facility in a valley near Route 810 in western Greene County.
The location is what has caused this SUP to be hotly contested, not the fact that a cell tower for that part of the county is needed. In fact, no one speaking at the meeting spoke against the need for a cell tower, but spoke against the specific location selected by AT&T.
AT&T’s attorney, Preston Lloyd, made a presentation to open the public hearing. Mr. Lloyd explained that AT&T searched the area based on the County zoning requirements to see where to locate the tower.
With wireless technology, line of site is the basis, therefore height is critical to maximize coverage. However, based on Greene’s zoning, the cell tower fall pattern must not cross to another property making a large lot a requirement. He further explained that Greene County stresses fewer cell towers as opposed to Albemarle County that stresses maximum height of only 10 feet above the tree line (resulting in more shorter towers).
Mr. Lloyd further explained that having the tower located at the bottom of the valley would minimize the need to cut a roadway to the tower. Finally, Mr. Lloyd explained that there were no other towers in the valley capable of colocation of their equipment (in their current condition).
The meeting was then opened to public comment. The majority of the comments were against the particular location since it was in the view shed of Peace Garden of the Mount Vernon United Methodist Church.
Perhaps one of the most informative speakers of the evening was Alan Williams, Chief Engineer of Monticello Media, who indicated that they were not contacted about the use of the tower for use by AT&T. He did admit that the current tower would not support the additional weight of the AT&T equipment but indicated that they would be willing to consider either beefing up the tower or build a new tower. In addition, the Monticello Media location is that it is higher than the AT&T sight by over 800 feet and therefore would provide more coverage.
Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway) asked Mr. Lloyd if he had any response to the public comments. He didn’t answer directly but explained that AT&T didn’t need to contact Monticello Media in order to analyze their tower by their own engineers to determine that the tower would not work.
The Board of Supervisors then made their comments. Supervisor Eddie Deane (At-Large) asked about coverage and location of other sites in Greene County. A tower was just installed on Tower Road within 3 miles of the proposed site. Mr. Deane asked what the impact on coverage will be once that tower is put into service? Coverage will be significantly increased per Mr. Lloyd. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville) indicated that the tower on Tower Road is at a height of 1,500 feet which is over 800 feet above the proposed tower. Mr. Lloyd said that he did not have the coverage projected from this tower but could provide it.
Chairman Frydl clarified with Mr. Lloyd that a coverage map was not available from the Monticello Media tower because it is not structurally able to support the AT& T equipment.
Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville) asked if AT&T had a second choice and was told no. Mr. Martin expressed concern over installing a new tower close to the Monticello Media tower. He asked if a coverage map from the Monticello Media could be generated? Mr. Lloyd restated that AT&T had not spoken to Monticello Media but would be willing to do so. But Mr. Lloyd stated that restarting the analysis would affect the timeline which he was under pressure to maintain. Mr. Martin indicated that he and the county have all the time needed – to do it right.
Mr. Deane stated that cell service for safety issues is most important. But leaving out Dyke and other areas in southwest Greene County was unacceptable. Deane further stated “Why should we settle for sirloin when we can have filet mignon”?
Mr. Martin then made a motion to defer the decision with the following provisions to define what would be needed to make the Monticello Media location usable and that the Greene BOS should seek a legal opinion on this issue. Chairman Frydl asked Mr. Lloyd when he could be ready to address the issues and they agreed on the May 13th meeting. The BOS agreed 5-0 to defer the request for the Special Use Permit.
Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.
Photo Credit: NBC29
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