COMMISSION STAFF REPORT
FEBRUARY 28, 2002
SPECIAL EXCEPTION CASE #SE 02-M-15
PLAN SUBSTANTIAL ACCORD REVIEW
SPRINT PCS, Upperville fire
The applicant is requesting special exception approval to locate telecommunication antennas at the 95-foot level within a 100-foot telecommunication stealth flagpole proposed by the Upperville Fire Department. The “flagpole” tower would be constructed at the rear (south side) of the existing fire department station house. All telecommunications antennas are proposed to be located within the stealth flagpole, while the equipment cabinets would be installed at the base within a fenced area. Although the proposed flagpole has been determined to be a “by-right” structure, the placement of personal wireless communications antennas at a height greater than 80 feet triggers the need for a special exception as a telecommunications facility.
The applicant indicates that the requested height is necessary to compensate for topography, tree cover and structures that can affect a carrier’s coverage capabilities. At the proposed height of 100 feet with antenna location at 95 feet, the applicant believes that the request is justified to provide useful coverage heights. The proposed coverage area is a five (5) mile area along U.S. Route 50 with Upperville as the center, while also covering portions of State Routes 619, 712 and 719. It is noted that other carriers could potentially co-locate below the 95-foot height being reserved for Sprint PCS.
The ground elevation of the proposed tower site location is approximately 540 feet, which would place the tower elevation at approximately 640 feet, or 100 feet above ground level. The 1.4-acre parcel is owned by the Upperville Volunteer Fire Company and contains the fire station building with associated parking. The village location provides for a mixture of adjacent uses, from commercial to residential.
The applicant has indicated that a void in coverage exists in this area with no readily apparent co-location opportunities. However, the applicant has only provided propagation information with a 95-foot height and compared it with no facility being present. County propagation maps indicate that a lower height of 80 feet would still provide coverage not currently available to Sprint by linking to its existing and proposed sites to the east (Crenshaw Road and Middleburg Water tank). Additionally, the Comprehensive Plan for Commercial Wireless Facilities notes that any such structure within the Route 50 corridor is recommended to a maximum height of 80 feet.
The site is also located within the National Register Historic District-designated Village of Upperville. Although the Fire Station location affords the applicant relief from setback and location requirements of the Zoning Ordinance, staff does have some concern over the height of the proposed facility combined with its 2-foot, eight-inch diameter dimension within this sensitive historical area. Although the pole can be built “by-right”, its use as a telecommunications facility at a height greater than 80 feet causes this concern.
Because the applicant has requested a hearing before the Board of Supervisors on March 18, 2002, staff would recommend that the Planning Commission close the public hearing on this matter and forward the application to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation of denial.
1. Staff Analysis
Staff and appropriate referral agencies have reviewed
this request for conformance with the Comprehensive Plan, the Zoning
Ordinance, and other relevant policies and regulations.
Staff findings, comments and recommendations, as well as referral
agency comments follow:
9 of the Comprehensive Plan includes the County’s Commercial Wireless
Technology Facilities Plan. Under
Section 15.2-2232 of the Code of Virginia, this application is required
to be determined in substantial accord with the Comprehensive Plan.
The general intent of the Comprehensive Plan with regard to
telecommunication towers is to seek a balance between providing wireless
communication service to County residents and businesses while remaining
sensitive to the location and appearance of these facilities.
These goals can be achieved through the encouragement of tower
heights less than 80 feet, co-location on existing towers and
structures, careful design and siting, among others.
This application requests a new tower at a height greater than 80
feet. In such instances,
the Comprehensive Plan notes that:
most preferred settings are in areas of employment concentration or
mature tree stands, where towers would not be highly visible and within
trees with only antenna arrays above the tree tops.
in areas zoned or planned for residential uses are discouraged.
towers adjacent to or in close proximity to existing/planned residential
uses are discouraged.
towers should be considered only when co-location or replacement is not
owned land should be considered.
towers should be encouraged at locations within wooded areas or remote
sites away from residential structures to reduce visual impacts.
should be located on a down slope.
towers should not block the County’s microwave paths or interfere with
public safety radio systems.
tower should be closer than 1,000 feet from a Virginia Scenic Byway
unless an acceptable stealth design is utilized.
Additionally, the Plan for Commercial Wireless
Facilities also notes that within the Route 50 corridor, a height
restriction of 80 feet is recommended.
The Planning Commission should consider these factors
in determining if this application is in conformance with the
Comprehensive Plan as a public utility.
one of the general performance criteria in Section 11-102.4 of the
ordinance states that the height of a new tower shall be limited based
upon technological need. It
is staff’s evaluation that the applicant has not satisfied this
criterion in that propagation studies prepared by the County’s
telecommunication consultant indicate coverage capabilities not
currently being provided through the use of a tower at a lower height.
The applicant did not present any alternative propagation