Owner/Applicant:                                                       Board Meeting Date:

AT&T Wireless Service, Inc., Applicant                       April 21, 2003

George C. & Helen F. Elmore, Owners

Staff Lead:                                                                 Department:

Robert C. Counts                                                         Community Development

Magisterial District:  Center                                     PIN:

Service District: None                                               7904-15-6717-000


Special Exception SE03-C-11: AT&T Wireless - Elmore Property                  

Topic Description:

Category 20 Special Exception to allow for the construction of a 110-foot monopole telecommunications facility and compound.

Land Area, Location and Zoning:                                                    

The subject property consists of ± 55.5 acres zoned RA (Agricultural). It is located beyond the end of Elmores Lane south of Dumfries Road (Route 605) near its intersection with Marigold Lane .

Neighboring Zoning/Land Use:

The subject property is surrounded by land zoned RA, some of which has been developed for large lot residential use.

Action Requested of the Board of Supervisors:

Conduct a public hearing and take action on Special Exception application SE03-C-11. The Planning Commission has forwarded a recommendation of approval but did not include any specific conditions. Should the Board so choose, staff is prepared to provide conditions of approval that could minimize any adverse community impact from the proposed tower.

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 and referral agency findings, comments, and recommendations are summarized below.

Technical Considerations

The County’s telecommunications consultant, Atlantic Technology Consultants, Inc. (ATC), reviewed this Special Exception request. ATC provided the following assessment.

  1. Background:  AT&T Wireless (AWS) proposes to construct a 110-foot monopole tower to support antennas used by wireless service providers.  The objective for the facility is to provide coverage along a significant portion of Dumfries Road east of Warrenton.  The objective is to close out “dead spots” in the surrounding area.  AWS proposes to locate the tower at 7511 Elmores Lane just south of Dumfries Road . 

2.      Site And Design: The proposed structure will be sited in a 2500 square foot area which is zoned RA. The tower will be placed in a heavily wooded area that will help camouflage the proposed tower.  In addition, the antennas will be flush mounted to the pole in order to minimize the visual impact.  A 5-foot chain link fence will surround the area.  The area will be large enough to allow future shelters to be accommodated.  The structure is sited within a stand of trees of a minimum 100-foot radius depth.  The applicant provided photo simulations that show limited visual impact.

  1. Environmental Impacts: The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), delineated in Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1, Subpart I, Sections 1.1301-1.1319 requires federal agencies to incorporate environmental considerations into their decision-making process.  As a licensing agency, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires all licensees to consider the potential environmental effects from its construction of antenna support structures and disclose those effects in an Environmental Assessment (EA) that must be filed with the FCC for review.  In absence of a NEPA report, the potential impact on environmental resources as a result of this proposal is not known.

  2. Historic Impacts: In addition to environmental considerations, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) requires that State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO) be given a reasonable opportunity to comment on all federal undertakings with the potential to affect historic properties.  Prior to construction, the licensee is required to submit to the SHPO a detailed description of the project, a listing of historic resources and a discussion of any measures being undertaken to mitigate impacts (if any) on historic resources.  Upon receipt, the SHPO has thirty (30) days to review and respond.  All agencies with authority to permit construction are required to consider the SHPO response in its decision-making process.  In the absence of SHPO review, the potential impact on historic resources as a result of this proposal is not known.

  3. Aviation Considerations: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that an air hazard determination be performed for all new structures, unless excluded under FAA rules and regulations.  This study examines the potential impact the proposed structure may have on safe air navigation.  An official air hazard study has not been completed at the time of submitting this report.

  4. Collocation Opportunities: A site visit confirms the findings of the applicant.  In the area that AWS is looking to cover there are no suitable structures that would allow the applicant to meet their coverage objectives.

7.      Coverage Analysis: The applicant proposes to fill a coverage gap east of Warrenton.  AWS provided propagation models outlining the current coverage of AWS.  ATC ran propagation coverage maps to see if the tower could be built at a lower height.  At 80 feet, the applicant will not be able to produce a signal over the existing tree lines which are in excess of 80-feet in height.  If the site is 100 feet tall, ATC estimates that the coverage would be approximately 30% less effective than if at the 110-foot level.  In order to provide optimal coverage with the least visual impact 110 feet seems to be appropriate.

AWS currently operates a network of sites surrounding the proposed site. Sprint’s existing coverage was analyzed through propagation modeling and spectrum analysis.

8.      Propagation Modeling: Propagation modeling was used to model AWS existing network coverage produced from the sites identified by the applicant.  Areas shaded in green and yellow (minimum – 89 dBm) represent acceptable coverage with the areas in green representing the strongest communication back to the tower.  Areas shaded in gray represent “spotty” or unreliable coverage.  Propagation mapping reveals that the proposed tower will fill a definite coverage gap in the area surrounding the proposed structure.

9.      Spectrum Analysis: A Spectrum Analyzer is a highly sophisticated device used to measure signal strength in a given area.  Our findings show some coverage in the designated area but a definite need for added signal strength.

Technical Recommendation:

According to ATC, the applicant has clearly demonstrated a need for additional coverage in the area of the proposed tower.  In addition, AWS has been very responsible in submitting the application based on the existing County ordinance.  As there are no collocation opportunities available at the current time, it is the recommendation of ATC to approve this application with the following conditions:


1.      As an FCC licensee, the applicant (or structure owner) is required to perform a NEPA study.  In the absence of such a study, the impact on environmental resources is not known.  The potential impact on environmental resources should be considered in any decision concerning approval.

2.      As an FCC licensee, the applicant is required to perform a Section 106 review.  In the absence of such a review, the impact on environmental resources is not known.  The potential impact on historic resources should be considered in any decision concerning approval.

3.      A non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation (NIER) analysis should be performed on the cumulative effect of all antennas to be located on the structure to ensure a safe environment for workers and the general public who may be exposed.

Requirements of the Zoning Ordinance

Chapter 11 of the Zoning Ordinance stipulates the following Tower Location Guidelines:




Adjoining Property’s Existing Residential Unit

1,000 feet or 300 feet if facility is centered and surrounded by preserved woodland with minimum radius depth of 100 feet *

Public highway, street or road

100 feet when the facility is centered and surrounded by preserved woodland with minimum radius depth of 100 feet *

Federal, state or county park or wildlife management area

5,000 feet *

Fauquier County Water and Sanitation Authority or fire and rescue company site

Located so as not to interfere with any signal from existing equipment of primary user.  Setback provisions of ordinance do not apply.


Poles shall be located on down slope from the top of ridgelines *

Scenic Byway

1,000 feet, unless acceptable stealth design is included

Within or adjacent to zoning district that permits residential uses

Distance equal to one foot of setback for each one foot of facility height

Within or adjacent to zoning district that does not permit residential uses.

Distance equal to one foot setback for each five feet of facility height

County designated historic district, historic resources designated within the Comprehensive Plan or a Virginia Byway if a telecommunication facility is proposed on a property listed on the National Register of Historic Places

If located within one-mile distance, applicant must submit three visual simulations and written justification as to why it cannot be located elsewhere.


* These location requirements can be modified through the special exception process if it can be shown that: (1) Due to topography, forested areas and floodplain barriers, environmental factors provide to an equal degree, adequate buffer and camouflaging to reduce the 1,000 foot residential unit setback, or (2) If the design is mitigated or camouflaged in such a way to make the facility less visible than if it were in the trees, the facility may be located outside of existing trees or surrounded by less than 100 feet of trees in all directions.

In addition to the requirements listed on the standard Special Exception checklist, the following items must be addressed with a new telecommunications facility application.

1.      A map showing the telecommunication system of which the proposed use will be an integral part, together with a written statement outlining the functional relationship of the proposed facility use to the utility system.

2.      A statement, prepared by a certified engineer, giving the basic reasons for selecting the particular site as the location of the proposed facility and certifying that the proposed use will meet the performance standards of the district in which located.

3.      Photo imagery or other visual simulation of the proposed telecommunication tower or monopole must be shown with the existing conditions of the site. This simulation shall be provided from a minimum of three (3) perspectives. The applicant shall address how the facility can be designed to mitigate the visual impact on area residents, facilities, and roads.

4.      Except for areas where permitted by right, an applicant for the proposed telecommunication facility must demonstrate that an antenna location on an existing facility is not feasible.  The applicant shall evaluate through an engineering report the existing telecommunication facilities and structures 80 feet or greater in height within a one (1) mile radius of the proposed facility when located in a designated Service District of the Comprehensive Plan.  Elsewhere in the County, the applicant shall evaluate through an engineering report the facility and structure locations, 80 feet or greater in height, within a two (2) mile radius of the proposed facility. Technological, physical, and economic constraints may be considered in determining site feasibility.

5.      The carrier shall provide a copy of Form 600 on file with the FCC, and its FCC license (Radio Authorization Form).

6.      The application shall show relationship to other personal wireless service facilities, including those existing and proposed by the carrier/applicant.  The nearest existing sites for other carriers in at least four directions (north, south, east and west), as well as those proposed by other carriers on file in Fauquier County and with VDOT.

7.      Applicants shall submit documentation, in written and graphic form regarding the service area to be provided by the proposed telecommunication tower or monopole.  This includes propagation maps demonstrating that these facilities, with collocation capabilities, are no higher in elevation than necessary.

The applicant has complied with each of these provisions.   

Engineering Considerations

The Engineering Division reviewed this requested special exception and offered only one comment: This plan will be required to meet the Fauquier County Stormwater Management Ordinance.


The County Soil Scientist reviewed this requested special exception and offered no comments.


The VDOT Warrenton Residency Office reviewed the requested special exception but, because it does not have jurisdiction to enforce entrance standards on private streets, it had no comments on the location, design, or installation of an entrance serving the site.

Summary and Planning Commission Recommendation:

The Planning Commission considered this application at its regular meetings in November, December, and January. A public hearing was conducted at the November meeting and held open for additional testimony at the December meeting. Because of difficult weather conditions, poor site access and other factors, the Planning Commission requested the applicant to conduct multiple balloon tests to determine the visibility of the proposed tower. A balloon test was conducted in mid-November and a crane test was conducted in mid-December. The Planning Commission deferred action at its December meeting to allow for one final half-day balloon test. That test was conducted satisfactorily on December 27, 2002 .

In addition to the multiple balloon tests, the applicant has stipulated a number of development conditions that will diminish any negative impacts to the community, and has been responsive to numerous requests for information from both staff and the County’s telecommunications consultant.  Based on extensive analysis, the County’s telecommunications consultant has concluded that, subject to certain conditions stipulated by the applicant, recommended by ATC, and established County standards, the applicant meets all criteria relating to the approval of a Category 20 Special Exception. At a special meeting held on January 7, 2003 , the Planning commission voted to forward Special Exception application SE03-C-11 to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation of approval, but did not include specific conditions of approval.  In addition to the preceding analysis, staff has, at the Board’s request, also prepared a resolution outlining reasons for denial of the application, but is prepared to provide appropriate conditions should the Board choose to approve.



1.      Resolution for Approval

2.      Resolution for Denial