PUBLIC HEARING AGENDA REQUEST

Owners/Applicants:

Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Commonwealth of Virginia

c/o Virginia Department of Transportation, Owner; Verizon Wireless, Applicant

 

June 8, 2006

 

Staff Lead:

Melissa Dargis, Assistant Chief of Planning

Department:

Community Development

 

Magisterial District:

Scott

 

PIN:

VDOT Right-of-Way at the Intersection of Route 55 and I-66

Topic:

A Resolution to Deny Special Exception Request TWSE06-SC-001 to Allow a Telecommunications Tower Within the Virginia Department of Transportation Right-Of-Way

 

Topic Description: 

The applicant requests approval to construct an 80-foot telecommunications monopole (tower) with 12-foot antenna and the installation of a 12-foot by 30-foot by 10-foot unmanned equipment shelter to be built within the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) right-of-way.  The project footprint is approximately 18,838 square feet.

Project Update:

On May 3, 2006, the Planning Office received a written request to defer this item until July 13, 2006; however, the request came subsequent to the legal advertisement for the hearing.  Since the item was advertised for public hearing on May 11, 2006, the Board of Supervisors allowed members of the public to speak.  Many of the adjacent property owners and residents came and spoke out against the Special Exception request.  In general, their comments focused on the preservation of the aesthetics within this historic area and the goal of maintaining its natural beauty.  Hence, the speakers placed emphasis on the stewardship of the local landowners who have placed their properties in easement for the protection of both the natural and historic character of this Fauquier County location.

The hearing was kept open and the item was postponed for 30 days, at the request of the Board of Supervisors.  The applicant’s representative was present and did not speak nor did he request additional postponement time. 

Project Information:

The site is accessed from Route 55 and I-66.  It is a vacant land zoned Rural Agricultural (RA).   The applicant states that there are no existing structures of sufficient height to co-locate upon.  The applicant also searched for other locations within its “search ring” of Broad Run, Little Georgetown and The Plains area.  The proposed site was selected by Verizon Engineers as they indicate it would provide the best comprehensive high quality coverage.

The applicant notes that the monopole is proposed in an area that is densely wooded and is located between two (2) major roads.  It proposes that the monopole be compatible with the background in the vicinity in regards to color, design and setting.  According to the Statement of Justification, this will be an unmanned facility and technicians visit a monopole site once every other month.

The tower would not be visible from Route 55, due to the densely wooded area.  However, it would be visible from the I-66 corridor.

Referral agency comments note that the “Proposed Commercial Wireless Facilities Plan Amendment to Chapter 9 - Public Facilities and Utilities of the Fauquier County Comprehensive Plan” adopted August 21, 2000 states:

“No tower shall be located within 1,000 feet of Virginia Scenic Byways unless an acceptable stealth tower design is utilized.”

The proposed tower is located approximately 184 feet from John Marshall Highway (Route 55) which is designated as a Virginia Scenic Byway by Virginia Department of Transportation. This is also shown on Map 9.17 of the above referenced Comprehensive Plan document.  The proposed plan shows the tower to be a monopole and does not include a stealth tower design.

 

Land Area, Location and Zoning:    

The property is located at the intersection of I-66 and Route 55 in the Plains.  A map of the property is shown below with the approximate monopole location cross-hatched.

                

                                            

Neighboring Zoning/Land Use:

The property is currently zoned Rural Agricultural (RA). Consistent with this zoning category, this property is located in a district that contains the areas where there are agriculture and forestry uses or where significant agricultural lands or large lot type residential development exists.  It is bound on all sides by property zoned RA.

 

Action Requested of the Board of Supervisors:

Conduct a public hearing and consider adoption of the attached resolution.

 

Planning Commission Recommendation:

On February 16, 2006, the Planning Commission held a public hearing on this item.  Many members of the public spoke against this item at that meeting.  The Commission forwarded this item with a unanimous recommendation of denial to the Board of Supervisors based on its finding that this proposed telecommunications tower location is not consistent with the Goals, Objectives and Policies outlined in Chapter 9 as it does not:

1.      Maintain and preserve the agricultural and residential character of the County and its neighborhoods and promote the creation of an attractive and harmonious community;

2.      Minimize the adverse visual impacts of wireless communications towers and related facilities through careful design, siting, landscape screening and innovative camouflaging techniques;

3.      Provide a location in an area with concentrations of employment and mature tree stands; the least preferred areas are in existing residential areas, historic/archeological site and natural resource areas;

4.      No tower shall be located within 1000 feet of Virginia Scenic By-Ways unless an acceptable stealth tower design is utilized; and

  1. Existing reasonable uses are available on the property and the applicant has failed to demonstrate that other locations, which are less impactful, are not available.

 

Staff Analysis:

Staff and the 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. The actual responses from referral agencies are available upon request.

County Telecommunications Consultant (ATC)

Construction of this site is proposed to meet the coverage needs of one/Verizon Wireless/FCC licensed telecommunications provider authorized to provide coverage to the Fauquier County area.  Verizon Wireless proposes the addition of an 80-foot monopole style transmission tower to support service delivery in an area along State Route 55 from Mount Jackson toward The Plains, Virginia.  This report outlines the specific areas of evaluation with respect to this proposal, and ATC’s several recommendations regarding the site plans as presented.  Supporting and clarifying evidence regarding the suitability of the proposed design in meeting the specified coverage goals is also included.

It is the opinion of the consultant that this application should be approved as an 80-foot structure with a stealth design, to cover the Route 55 and Interstate 66 area in accordance with the Fauquier County Telecommunications Ordinance, 11-100.

The property that the proposed Telecommunications Facility is to be located is a parcel of property owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia, Virginia Department of Transportation.  This property was acquired by VDOT during the engineering phase of the construction of Interstate 66.  The base parcel of land is approximately 4.5 acres of wooded land.

The property is a wooded area with pine and evergreen trees and hardwood species of trees that are from 20 to 50 feet in height.  The view of the parcel from the surrounding properties is viewed as a wooded lot.

The property and the Telecommunications Site would serve the I-66 corridor and would be visible from the I-66 corridor.

The design of the recommended monopole should be designed to support the proposed appurtenances and yet minimize visual impact.  The antennas will be surface mounted to the pole.  This shall be accomplished without a mounting arm to offset or standoff from the pole structure.

This structure should conform to all applicable building requirements of the Virginia Uniform Building Code and any federal code not specified in the VUBC.

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 when evaluating new construction proposals.  As a licensing agency, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) requires all licensees to consider the potential environmental effects from their construction of antenna support structures, and to disclose those effects in an Environmental Assessment (EA) that must be filed with the FCC for review.

The results of a properly formatted NEPA study have not been included in this applicant’s request package.  This is currently a County requirement, however, prior to the applicant’s placing this site in operation as a Communications Site, this report must be completed as required by the FCC.  This report can be requested and reviewed and held as a Public Document.  

It may be expected that simple visual impact from this site would be of far greater concern and represents a more likely source of questions.  Barring unexpected directives from the FAA, the site will not be painted with bright aviation marking colors.  Due to the proposed site location, no landscaping plan has been submitted, as is typically required by County Zoning Ordinance.   It is the recommendation of this consultant that the applicant consider a Stealth Technology such as a silo to house the antennas, building, and support equipment.

Historic Impacts

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) requires that State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO) and the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation be given a reasonable opportunity to comment on all 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 local 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 to those submissions.  All agencies with authority to permit construction are required to consider the SHPO response in its decision making process with respect to new construction applications.

The results of a properly formatted historical impact study have not been included in this applicant’s request package.

Many local Civil War engagements and encampments are known to have occurred in the general vicinity.

Recommendations:

This application represents intent on the part of the applicant to conform to the County ordinances and guidelines.  ATC recommendations:

  1. Approve the application at 80 foot AGL.
  2. Encourage the applicant to seek a “Stealth Solution” for this site.
  3. Provide County with NEPA Report when completed.
  4. Provide County with SHIPO Report when completed.
  5. Have VDOT commit to lighting determination

Zoning Comments

The Zoning Office has the following comments:

1.         This plan meets the standards contained in Section 11-102 (2) of the Zoning Ordinance for a by-right telecommunications facility as outlined in Article 11 of the Fauquier County Zoning Ordinance except for the 100-foot setback requirement from a public highway, as the tower is located within excess right-of-way owned by VDOT. The deficient setback has triggered the requirement for a Special Exception.

2.         A Site Plan consistent with Article 12 of the Fauquier County Zoning Ordinance is required prior to obtaining building permits.

The Zoning Office has also provided additional comments related to possible stealth designs currently in use or under construction in the county.  Following is a description of these design alternatives and their locations:

·         Silo – Constructed as a farm structure with all/most associated equipment located within the structure.  The antennas are located within the top portion of the silo or painted to match the exterior.  All electrical equipment located outside the silo is located in a "lean to" or shed like structure to be consistent with existing surrounding structures.  These towers are located on farms with existing silos or barns.  The placement of the silo is close in proximity to all existing structures to be aesthetically pleasing.  Almara Farm, 5263 Catlett Road, Cedar Run District.

·         Flag Pole – Constructed on commercial or government sites as a flagpole.  All antennas are located within the pole structure with no exposed wires or piping.  All associated equipment located on the ground is located away from the flagpole and completely screened from view.  Upperville Fire Department, Marshall District.

·         Mono Pine – Constructed in a well-vegetated area with antennas located within fake branch-like structures.  All associated equipment is located on the ground, and completely screened from view.  Mast site, 2592 Carriage Ford Road, Cedar Run District.

Camouflaged – Constructed in virtually any location with a digital camouflaged pattern created with vinyl cover or painted to blend with the existing landscape.  Equipment on the ground is completely screened from view.  Poulin Tower site, 11033 John Marshall Highway, Marshall District (under construction).

Soils/Environmental

After reviewing the above stated Special Exception application, the following comments are made:

1.         State the source of the soils map and interpretive guide information. “Preliminary soils information via Fauquier County Soil Survey (original scale 1” = 1320’).

2.         Map unit 47C has a high erosion hazard and a low to moderate bearing capacity due to high mica content.

GIS

GIS provides the following comments:

1.         The GIS Department will assign an address to this property for a 12x30x10 equipment shelter, which will be constructed on this site.

 

2.         The GIS Department requests a copy of the building permit for this project, which will be used for reference in assigning the address. The permit and site plan will be retained on file in the GIS Department.

3.         Page 9 item “j” of the “Proposed Commercial Wireless Facilities Plan Amendment to Chapter 9 - Public Facilities and Utilities of the Fauquier County Comprehensive Plan” adopted August 21, 2000 states:

“No tower shall be located within 1,000 feet of Virginia Scenic Byways unless an acceptable stealth tower design is utilized.”

The proposed tower is located approximately 184 feet from John Marshall Highway (Route 55) which is designated as a Virginia Scenic Byway by Virginia Department of Transportation.  This is also shown on Map 9.17 of the above referenced Comprehensive Plan document.  The proposed plan shows the tower to be a monopole and does not include a stealth tower design.

4.         The GIS Department requests notification from the Planning Office when this telecommunication tower has been constructed and is operational.  Once notified, the GIS Department will incorporate data into the digital GIS map layer and spreadsheet that the department maintains.  The GIS Department will also notify the Department of Fire and Emergency Services when the tower is constructed.

Summary and Recommendations:

Staff recommends that the Board of Supervisors consider the Planning Commission’s recommendation of denial for this item. 

Staff’s consultant, ATC’s summary is that the monopole can potentially be approved, if it is a stealth structure.  However, staff does not agree with that recommendation due to the aesthetics (visual impacts) terrain, historic and natural resource sensitivities within the I-66 gateway location into Fauquier County.

 

Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Fauquier County Department of Community Development

ATTACHMENTS:

1.      Statement of Justification

2.      Special Exception Plat

3.      ATC Report

 

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