- Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 June 2011 00:00
- Published on Wednesday, 01 June 2011 00:00
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The King George Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing next Tuesday on a request for a special exception permit for a 195-foot monopole cell tower on the north side of Caledon Road in a wooded residential area containing homes on large lots. The June 7 hearing is set to begin at 6:45 p.m. to take comments from the public.
The special exception request, submitted by Edward L. Donohue on behalf of New Cingular Wireless PCS, LCC (AT&T), is intended to be located on
property owned by Russell and Nicole Pickeral at 9421 Caledon Road.
The 5.876 acre property that contains an existing residence is zoned Rural Agricultural (A-2) and identified on Tax Map 15, Parcel 38A. The tower would be located at least 400 feet from any existing dwelling on nearby lots and would be owned and operated by AT&T.
A telecommunication facility is a commercial use allowed in this zoning only by special exception granted by the Board of Supervisors.
RCC Consultants, Inc. is under contract by the county to analyze and provide an independent professional review and recommendation when a cell tower construction application is made.
RCC’s John Hitch was present at the April 12 Planning Commission meeting, saying his firm recommended the special exception permit be approved contingent on more landscaping to help shield the base of the tower from the nearby houses and a church.
He based the recommendation 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 would provide effective coverage in the desired area.
Jack Green, Director of Community Development, provided the staff recommendation, likewise in favor of approval under the conditions specified in a draft Special Exception Permit, which include the following key provisions: A requirement for space to be reserved on the ground and the tower for King George County to install equipment; 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; security fencing to be provided around the base of the tower.
A public hearing had been held by the Planning Commission at its April 12 meeting, with the matter held over. Tracy Anderson, an attorney representing AT&T, spoke in favor of the proposal noting the company had agreed to all recommendations and requirements by RCC and staff.
Residents commenting were Pat Hayden, Elizabeth Hunter, Eugene Rushing, Shelia and Don Baker, and Calvin White with the nearby First Baptist Ambar Church.
There were questions about a potential loss in property values for nearby homes and about the safety of cell towers to neighbors living nearby and those frequenting the church. A complaint was also raised about a droning noise coming from a similar facility in the county. Green said he had been advised that the sound might be due to faulty equipment, saying it would be checked. Commissioners agreed to postpone action in April to allow time for staff to provide answers.
ANSWERS & DISCUSSION
The special exception request was back on the agenda at the May 10 meeting. The Commission was supplied with sell-value studies noting no documented decrease in property sell values.
Studies were also supplied regarding human exposure to radio frequency power, with the finding that the Federal Communication Commission’s guidelines recommend a maximum permissible exposure level which is many times greater than levels typically found near the base of cellular towers or in the vicinity of other, lower-powered cell site transmitters.
There were statements made at both the April and May meetings questioning the need for the additional tower despite the evidence from the county’s independent consultant.
The gap in coverage would be expected to become more noticeable with increased usage of “smartphones” and other devices using cellular service to relay data.
The first generation of mobile phone technology was the analog signal that became the backbone of mobile connectivity. The transition to second generation (2G) was characterized by the shift to digital. Now, more and more cell phones run on some type of 3G network that makes possible advanced functionality features of email, media streaming and downloading, along with web browsing. A couple of carriers are beginning to offer devices and service they call 4G.
SPLIT VOTE BY COMMISSION
At the May meeting, the Planning Commission took action to forward the request to Supervisors recommending approval on a split vote of 4-2, with six of the ten commissioners present at the meeting.
Voting to recommend the special exception request were Josh Colwell, Chris Cox, Bill Eschmann and Jessica Herrink. Those voting against recommending the cell tower request were Bill Robie and Tony Scaramozzi. The absent Planning Commissioners were Doily Fulcher, Karla Frank, Gary Kendrick and Tara Patteson.
Robie questioned the need for 3G and 4G coverage and stated his opposition to the tower saying those who would be most affected by the lack of advanced coverage “are the ones who live right there, and they don’t want it.” Scaramozzi noted his opposition to adding a 195-foot monopole cell tower to the landscape, saying, “We are charged with maintaining the rural character.”
By Phyllis Cook