PUBLIC HEARING AGENDA REQUEST

Owner/Applicant:                                     Planning Commission Meeting Date:

William H., and Nelson D. Martin, Owners                                       July 21, 2003

AT&T Wireless, Applicant

Staff Lead:                                                                               Department:

Robert C. Counts                                                           Community Development

Magisterial District: Cedar Run                                                     PIN(s):

Service District: None                                                  7914-33-2804-000

Topic: SE03-CR-29: A Category 20 Special Exception to Allow a Telecommunications Tower in Excess of 80 feet, William H., and Nelson D. Martin, Owners, AT&T Wireless Services (AWS), Applicant;

Topic Description:

The Applicant is seeking a Special Exception to allow installation and operation of an unmanned, wireless radio link.  This radio link will consist of three (and possibly as many as six) panel antennas installed on a 105-foot tall monopole. The antennas will each measure no more than 75’H x 5”W x 3”D.  An equipment cabinet (70”H x 54”W x 38”D) will be placed on a concrete pad near the base of the monopole as per attached site plan. One equipment cabinet will be installed initially with up to two additional cabinets to be installed in the future. The entire facility will be within a 2500 square foot compound surrounded and secured by a 6’ tall fence.

The Applicant states that the proposed radio link is a necessary component of the area-wide system that AWS is deploying in Fauquier County . This site has been described by the Applicant as being critical to AWS, because it will provide wireless coverage along a significant portion of Dumfries Road east of Warrenton where AWS subscribers currently cannot access the network or where they lose signal.  According to the Applicant, the proposed site was selected because it is strategically located in relation to AWS’ other existing or planned radio links and will provide the widest and most efficient coverage of the arterial roadways in the area while minimizing its visual impact on major thoroughfares. 

AWS states that it was unable to locate any sufficiently tall structures within the area where its network plan requires a radio link in order to work effectively and efficiently with other existing or planned facilities to provide the most reliable and comprehensive coverage possible.  After searching within a 2-mile radius of the proposed site, AWS states that it was unable to identify an existing structure that presented a collocation opportunity that would provide adequate signal coverage; nor was it able to locate other raw land within its search ring for installation of a new monopole that offered comparable signal coverage or superior screening opportunities to what is available at the proposed site.

Location, Land Area, Zoning, and Neighboring Land Use:

The property is located on the north side of Dumfries Road (Route 605) between Neavils Lane and Taylor Road (Route 670). It consists of 39.66 acres zoned RA. The site is bordered on the north and east by properties in the RA zoning district and on the south and west by properties in the R-1 and R-2 zoning districts. Development ranges from sparse to moderately intense residential development.

Action Requested of the Board of Supervisors:

The Board of Supervisors is requested to conduct a public hearing on SE03-CR-29 and consider the recommended resolution of denial.

Staff Analysis:

This application was considered by the Planning Commission at its meeting on May 29, 2003 , and again on June 26, 2003 . At the first meeting the Applicant was seeking authorization to construct a monopole tower at a height of 120 feet. During the work session segment of that meeting, and at the subsequent public hearing, the Applicant’s representative stated his client’s intention to lower the requested height of the tower to 105 feet, citing a significant reduction in tower visibility, but no significant loss of coverage at the lower height. At the June 26, 2003 meeting the Applicant proposed that reduction in tower height.

The County’s telecommunications consultants, Atlantic Technology Consulting (ATC), did not conduct an additional formal analysis of service levels resulting from the proposed reduction in height from 120 feet to 105 feet at the Martin site. However, follow-up telephone discussions with ATC indicate that the Applicant’s contention of minimal loss of service is consistent with ATC’s earlier finding that the gain in service associated with the Martin site is marginal to begin with. ATC concurs that the loss of service resulting from a lower tower height will be negligible at either 105 feet or the by-right height of 80 feet.

ATC propagation modeling shows that with the approval of the Elmore tower, the key to AWS service levels in this area is not a location at the Martin site, but the already approved collocation on the existing Crown tower located near Route 28 in the Catlett area. According to ATC’s modeling, AWS’s collocation on the Crown tower at a height of 145 feet will result in the closing of virtually all significant gaps in service between the Crown tower and the Elmore site. ATC’s analysis indicates that an additional tower at the Martin site will add some level of service to the area, bringing it closer to 100% coverage, but the absence of this additional coverage would not constitute a significant gap in service. In addition to its own modeling, ATC also evaluated the analysis of Bechtel, the Applicant’s technical consultant. ATC found a differential of less than 3% between the two assessments of level of service resulting from a tower located on the Martin property. This additional analysis supports the ATC finding of only marginal service gain.

Summary and Recommendation:

ATC previously identified four options as the Planning Commission’s response to this request. Despite the proposed reduction in tower height, ATC’s options and recommendations remain unchanged:

Option 1: Allow the Applicant to build the site as requested (i.e. 105 feet).

Option 2: Allow the Applicant to construct an 80-foot wood monopole, which will reduce the visual impact that is presented in the package submitted under profile views to the surrounding resident(s). Propagation models indicate that a decrease in overall height of the structure with the collocation on the Crown tower would not reduce the overall coverage in the area.

Option 3: Allow the Applicant to construct an 80-foot silo type stealth structure on the hilltop/cleared pasture area of the property well away from the flood plain as outlined in the submitted site plans, thereby reducing all visual impact to the surrounding residential area(s). The Applicant would be able to further reduce any gaps in coverage by utilizing the mentioned Crown tower for collocation.

Option 4: Deny the application for the proposed 105-foot structure. The Applicant’s intent to collocate on the Crown site as mentioned significantly reduces the need for an additional site in the area.

ATC has recommended that the Applicant pursue an 80-foot structure of the type outlined in either Option 2 or Option 3.  After conducting a public hearing on SE03-CR-29, the Planning Commission concurred with ATC’s recommendation. The Planning Commission recommends denial of Special Exception request SE03-CR-29 based on the following:

1.      The provisions of the Zoning Ordinance for a special exception are not met in this application; the Commission found that the proposed facility would negatively impact the public health, safety and welfare of residents of Fauquier County and adjoining property owners.

2.      The proposed use will hinder and discourage the appropriate development and use of adjacent land and impair the value of adjacent land in violation of Sections 5-006, 11-101 and 11-102 of the Zoning Ordinance.

3.      The proposed use will be incompatible with existing or planned development in the general area and the Comprehensive Plan.

4.      The proposed use fails to comply with and is not in conformity with the applicable standards of Article 5 and Article 11 of the Zoning Ordinance and all other applicable requirements of the Zoning Ordinance.

5.      The property, which is the subject of this special exception request, has available to it other existing reasonable permitted, special exception and special permit uses.

6.      Other existing and potential locations are suitable to serve the proposed use.

7.      The proposed site, at the elevation proposed, is not necessary in order to afford cellular service in the affected area.

8.      Suitable alternatives to afford cellular coverage in the affected area exist or are feasible.

Should the Board of Supervisors choose to approve SE03-CR-29, staff recommends that such approval be subject to the following conditions:

1.      This Special Exception is subject to the provisions of Article 12 of the Fauquier County Zoning Ordinance, Site Plans, as may be determined by the Fauquier County Department of Community Development.  Any plans submitted pursuant to this Special Exception shall be in conformance with the Special Exceptions Exhibits submitted by AT&T Wireless Services, LLC, Site Number: 005-017 Martin Raw Land as prepared by Centrex Communications Services, Inc., dated March 17, 2003 , and these conditions.

2.      The Special Exception is granted for and runs with the land indicated in this application and is not transferable to other land.

3.      This Special Exception is granted only for the purpose(s), structure(s) and/or uses indicated on Special Exception plat approved with the application, as qualified by these development conditions.

4.      The use shall comply with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Federal Communications Commission requirements at all times.

5.      This approval is for a monopole tower with a tower height not exceeding 105 feet.

6.      Prior to site plan approval, the Applicant shall obtain an official FAA air hazard determination.

7.      There shall be no signals or lights or illumination on any antenna, unless required by state or federal authorities, or the county.

8.      The antennas shall be flush-mounted to the pole in order to minimize the visual impact.

9.      A 6-foot chain link fence shall surround the area.  The area shall be large enough to allow future shelters to be accommodated. 

10.  The structure shall be sited within a stand of trees of a minimum 100-foot radius depth. 

11.  The dual-polarized antennas, the pole and related equipment cabinets shall all be within the size and height limitations specified in the Ordinance.

12.  Antennas and pole shall be finished in non-reflective materials of matching color.

13.  The equipment cabinet(s) shall also be finished in a neutral, non-reflective material.

14.  There shall be no commercial advertising on the site.

15.  All ground equipment shall be within a 2,500 square foot fenced and secured area that shall be surrounded by mature woodland and shall be virtually undetectable from public ways or abutting properties.

16.  The limits of clearing and grading for the entire 55.5-acre parcel shall be indicated on the site plan.  To the extent possible, existing mature tree stands shall remain.  There shall be no disturbance beyond the indicated limits of clearing and grading. The Applicant shall not remove existing trees within 200 feet of the site except as authorized to permit construction of the facility and provide for vehicular access to the site.

17.  Prior to the issuance of the Zoning Permit, at least one (1) telecommunications provider shall have an executed lease with the Applicant.  The Owner/Applicant shall provide collocation opportunities to other carriers so long as it is technologically possible.  The Applicant shall provide written documentation to the Fauquier County Zoning Administrator in the event that any future collocation cannot be accomplished.

18.  Any antenna or tower shall be disassembled and removed from the site within 90 days of the discontinuance of the use of the tower for wireless telecommunications purposes.  Removal includes the removal of the antennas, telecommunication towers, fence footers, underground cables and other related equipment/structures.  If there are two (2) or more users, then this provision shall not become effective until all users cease using the tower.  

Attachments:

  1. Applicant’s Statement of Justification
  2. ATC Technical Report
  3. Resolution of Denial