COUNTY OF FAUQUIER

DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

PLANNING COMMISSION STAFF REPORT

FEBRUARY 28, 2002

SPECIAL EXCEPTION CASE #SE 02-M-15 AND

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN SUBSTANTIAL ACCORD REVIEW

SPRINT PCS, Upperville fire station 

OWNERS: Upperville Volunteer Fire Company

9167 John S. Mosby Highway

Upperville, VA  20185

 
   
APPLICANT: Sprint PCS/APC Realty and Equipment

6905 Rockledge Drive, Suite 300

Bethesda, MD  20817

   
REPRESENTATIVE: Syeda Naqvu, Jackson and Campbell, P.C.

1120 20th Street, NW, Suite 300 South

Washington, DC  20036

   
PROPOSAL: Obtain Special Exception approval under Section 11-102.3 of the Zoning Ordinance to allow the location of personal wireless service facilities at a 95-foot elevation within a 100-foot stealth telecommunications flagpole at the Upperville Fire Station.  The applicant is also seeking a determination of substantial accord with the Comprehensive Plan as required by Sect. 15.2-2232 of the Code of Virginia.
   
LOCATION: On the south side of John S. Mosby Highway (U.S. Route 50) just west of its intersection with Delaplane Grade Road (State Route 712) in the Village of Upperville, with a property address of 9167 John S. Mosby Highway.
   
MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT: Marshall District
   
PROPERTY I.D.

NUMBER AND SIZE:

 

6054-75-3784-000, (1.4 acres)

   
CURRENT ZONING: VC (Village Commercial)
 
EXISTING ZONING AND LAND USES OF ADJACENT PROPERTIES

N

VC (Village Commercial)

Commercial (Valley Drilling)

S

V (Village Residential)

Residential

E

VC (Village Commercial)

Residential

W

VC (Village Commercial)

Commercial

         

 STAFF PLANNER:                Brian Davis

Background

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.

Recommendation

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. 

Attachments  

Memo (deny) 1

Memo  (approval) 2

1.      Staff Analysis

2.      Telecommunications Consultant Report

3.      Applicant’s Statement of Justification

4.      County Engineer Review

5.      Recommended Resolution of Denial

6.   Map 1, Map 2, Map 3

ATTACHMENT 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:

1.       Comprehensive Plan

The subject property is designated for Village Commercial uses in the Comprehensive Plan. 

 

Chapter 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:

Ø      The 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.

Ø      Towers in areas zoned or planned for residential uses are discouraged.

Ø      Non-stealth towers adjacent to or in close proximity to existing/planned residential uses are discouraged.

Ø      New towers should be considered only when co-location or replacement is not feasible.

Ø      Publicly owned land should be considered.

Ø      New towers should be encouraged at locations within wooded areas or remote sites away from residential structures to reduce visual impacts.

Ø      Towers should be located on a down slope.

Ø      New towers should not block the County’s microwave paths or interfere with public safety radio systems.

Ø      No tower should be closer than 1,000 feet from a Virginia Scenic Byway unless an acceptable stealth design is utilized.

This proposed tower would be within 1,000 feet of a Scenic By-Way (Route 50), so the Commission must determine that the proposed design is an acceptable stealth design.

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.

2.       Zoning Ordinance

Section 11-102.2 of the Ordinance sets forth certain location and siting requirements for new personal wireless facilities.  Section 11-102.3.14 of the Zoning Ordinance exempts facilities at fire and/or rescue company sites from these requirements.

However, 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 studies.

3.       Emergency Communications

The County Emergency Management Director has noted the following in the past:

“…the county…be allowed to place antennae on such towers for the purposes of public safety. These conditions need to detail a waiver of maintenance and rental fees etc. Of course, the county will pay for the materials and installation of the antennae.”


This concern can been incorporated into a development condition should the County chose to approve the application.

4.       County Engineer


The County Engineer has noted that the planned relocation of fuel and diesel storage tanks in association with this application must be done in accordance with EPA requirements.  There is also concern expressed over construction specifications and lighting detail.  Should special exception approval be granted, only lighting required by the FAA shall be permitted.