CELL

Rappahannock News - - SCHOOL & SPORTS NEWS -

From Page 1 res­i­dents.

He said AT&T’s plan to pro­vide cell cov­er­age in­cludes its own na­tive broad­band com­po­nent, in ad­di­tion to tower colo­ca­tion pos­si­bil­i­ties – up to four slots on their poles – avail­able to wire­less broad­band providers like Pied­mont Broad­band and Vir­ginia Broad­band as well as to other cell providers.

Don­ahue said AT&T had no co-lo­ca­tion agree­ments yet but that such op­por­tu­ni­ties would not be of­fered to other providers un­til some­time af­ter the projects are ap­proved.

Speak­ing against . . .

Among the no­table com­ments of the 15 cit­i­zens who urged the com­mis­sion­ers to re­ject or de­lay the ap­pli­ca­tion:

• “The county is the sub­ject of de­ri­sion for rub­ber-stamp­ing the first cell tower pro­posal [at Bos­ton],” said Phil Ir­win of Flint Hill, a long­time B& B owner and founder of the Rap­pa­han­nock League for En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion. RLEP has op­posed the 199-foot tow­ers be­cause they vi­o­late, in its mem­bers’ view, the in­tent of the county com­pre­hen­sive plan and es­pe­cially its pro­tec­tion of the scenic “ view­shed” here­abouts.

When Sprint built tow­ers in the county 10 years ago, Ir­win said, it took RLEP’s and the Pied­mont En­vi­ron­men­tal Coun­cil’s ad­vice and found “ ways to pro­vide cell phone ser­vice with­out any­one driv­ing by know­ing there is cell phone ser­vice.

“You did it be­fore,” he told the com­mis­sion­ers. “You can do it again. Please do it again.”

• “I ask the plan­ning com­mis­sion to set a new tone here,” said Karen Hunt of Amissville. “ Please rec­om­mend against these ap­pli­ca­tions and sug­gest al­ter­na­tives. This is not the best that they [AT&T] can do.”

• “If the pub­lic can­not com­ment on the doc­u­ments you got just to­day,” said the PEC’s Todd Ben­son, who lives in Flint Hill, re­fer­ring to the en­hanced cov­er­age maps, “then the pub­lic is cut out of the process. You should ta­ble this mat­ter tonight; there’s no hurry. You are well within the 150-day limit” the county has to re­spond to the ap­pli­ca­tion.

• “Why are you, who rep­re­sent me, deal­ing with AT&T dif­fer­ently then we dealt with Sprint?” asked Monira Ri­faat of Sper­ryville. “I hold you ac­count­able. It’s wrong to change the rules when a new ap­pli­cant comes down the road.”

• AT&T’s ap­pli­ca­tions, said the PEC’s lo­cal con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer, Don Loock, made no ref­er­ence to the scenic by­ways and high­ways along which its tow­ers would be vis­i­ble. “There is no men­tion of how the high school tower’s ef­fect on the scenic high­way of 211 is mit­i­gated,” said Loock, “and the zon­ing or­di­nance says it should be mit­i­gated.”

(This was among the rea­sons cited by Light for vot­ing against the high school tower. “I think the ap­pli­cant could have done more to mit­i­gate here, other than say­ing the high school build­ing would screen the ground fa­cil­ity’s view from the high­way,” Light said.)

In fa­vor of the tow­ers . . .

Among those eight cit­i­zens and six com­mis­sion­ers who spoke in fa­vor of the AT& T ap­pli­ca­tions:

• Demaris Miller of Washington sug­gested that in­creased cell cov­er­age would not only in­crease pub­lic safety but would “in­crease the pos­si­bil­i­ties for young peo­ple to stay in the county. And re­mem­ber, we are ag­ing as a pop­u­la­tion here.”

• “ These are not new de­vices,” said John Di­ley, re­spond­ing to sev­eral who expressed fear that the 199-foot high school tower, which is just over 80 feet from the near­est school build­ing, could the­o­ret­i­cally fall on the school. “These poles have been through cat­e­gory 2, cat­e­gory 3 hur­ri­canes. And to fall 199 feet, it would have to break off at its base – my un­der­stand­ing is when these poles do break, the upp­per­most part, the top-heavy sec­tion with all the an­tenna plat­forms, is what breaks off and falls.”

( Don­ahue later said the “fall zone” for these tow­ers is 70 feet, and that the claims of two speak­ers that elec­tro­mag­netic emis­sions from the tow­ers was a health risk has never been proven in a “peer-re­viewed” test – al­though, he pointed out, such con­cerns were “ not re­ally a proper land-use con­sid­er­a­tion.”)

• “I sus­pect that with some ef­fort,” Mike Mahoney of Washington told the com­mis­sion­ers, “you could marginally im­prove the cov­er­age [for county res­i­dents] – but only at the mar­gins. And if that’s your ob­jec­tive here, you might as well for­get it.”

• “As far as of­fer­ing al­ter­na­tive sites,” said com­mis­sioner (and su­per­vi­sor) Ron Frazier, “this body has noth­ing to say on that sub­ject . . . the ben­e­fit of these tow­ers for fire and res­cue and emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices is weigh­ing heav­ily on me right now. Any­one who can get up at 2 in the morn­ing and come out for us . . . and we give them a county sticker and $200 off their county prop­erty taxes – and that’s it.”

• “I think I’m one of two other com­mis­sion­ers who was on this board 10 years ago [when Sprint’s re­vised ap­pli­ca­tion was heard],” said Al Henry of the Hampton District. “. . . we were here un­til 1: 30 in the morn­ing, and it was stand­ing room only – and even then, not as many spoke in fa­vor of it as spoke in fa­vor here tonight.

“ We ap­proved them that night, and I’m pretty sure no one on the con­ser­va­tion side thought we did the right thing. Now, the PEC came to my of­fice in War­ren­ton the other day – to tell me that 10 years ago, we did the right thing, and we should do it again tonight.

“To me, the net ben­e­fits of this plan are greater than the dis­ad­van­tages.”

Sum­ming up

Af­ter the pub­lic hear­ing, County Ad­min­is­tra­tor John W. McCarthy, who is also the county zon­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor, said he wanted to ad­dress those who said the county was “treat­ing AT&T dif­fer­ently than we treated Sprint.

“It’s in­cum­bent upon me to point out that both com­pa­nies are be­ing treated the same.” A decade ago, he said, Sprint sub­mit­ted ap­pli­ca­tions for sev­eral tall mono­poles and lat­tice-type tow­ers up to 300 feet high – a plan “ al­most uni­ver­sally panned by peo­ple in the county. The ob­jec­tions were so im­me­di­ate and strong that Sprint uni­lat­er­ally with­drew those ap­pli­ca­tions. They met with the RLEP and PEC, and came up with the amended pro­posal that was even­tu­ally ap­proved.

“The county does not re­ally have the abil­ity to ne­go­ti­ate,” he said.

“When these [AT&T] ap­pli­ca­tions were filed, there was not the out­cry there was 10 years ago,” he said.

Later in the week, McCarthy was asked if the plan­ning com­mis­sion, as some had since com­plained in letters and posts to Rapp­net, the county’s email list­serve, “didn’t lis­ten” to the pub­lic com­ments against the tow­ers at the meet­ing.

“I don’t think that’s ac­cu­rate,” he said. “I think this is an item in a strong de­bate. There is a lot of pub­lic sup­port for it; there’s also op­po­si­tion. As is of­ten the case in a pub­lic de­bate, the side whose opin­ion isn’t fol­lowed claims it wasn’t heard – when in re­al­ity it was heard, but wasn’t agreed with.”

The com­mis­sion’s votes on the two ap­pli­ca­tions added con­di­tions iden­ti­cal to those im­posed for the Bos­ton tower – that the poles be painted, most likely brown; that if any fu­ture Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion rule change re­quires warn­ing lights on struc­tures un­der 200 feet, the tower must be re­con­fig­ured to a height that does not re­quire lights; and that AT&T pro­vide space, if re­quested, for fire and res­cue ser­vice an­ten­nas on the pole.

The ap­pli­ca­tions will be heard at the board of su­per­vi­sors’ reg­u­lar monthly meet­ing at 7 p.m. Mon­day, Feb. 7 – a meet­ing that will also be moved from its usual courthouse venue to the Rap­pa­han­nock County High School au­di­to­rium.

AT& T’s re­main­ing two ap­pli­ca­tions, to ex­tend the Sprint poles at Ben Venue and Amissville, come be­fore the plan­ning com­mis­sion at its Feb. 16 meet­ing.

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