COUNTY OF FAUQUIER

DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

PLANNING COMMISSION STAFF REPORT

JUNE 27, 2002 

 

SPECIAL EXCEPTION #SE 02-L-30 and

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN SUBSTANTIAL ACCORD REVIEW

James r. and betty l. mills and community wireless structures 

 

OWNERS:

 

James R. and Betty L. Mills, Trustees

1402 Winterland Road

Herndon, Virginia 20170

 

 

 

APPLICANT/ REPRESENTATIVE:

Thomas A. Murray

Community Wireless Structures

7700 Leesburg Pike, Suite 125

Falls Church, Virginia 2043

 

 

PROPOSAL:

Obtain Special Exception approval under Section 11-102.3 of the Zoning Ordinance to allow the construction of a 150-foot lattice structure with antenna and equipment, and to also obtain a determination of substantial accord with the Comprehensive Plan as required by Sect. 15.2-2232 of the Code of Virginia.

 

 

LOCATION:

11435 Lucky Hill Road (Route 655) just east of the intersection of Route 28 and Route 15/29.

 

 

MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT:

Lee District

 

 

PROPERTY I.D.

NUMBER AND SIZE:

 

6888-38-9459-000, (47.41 acres)

 

 

CURRENT ZONING:

RA (Agricultural)

 

 

EXISTING ZONING AND LAND USES OF ADJACENT PROPERTIES

N

R-1 (Residential) & RA (Agriculture)

Residential

S

RA (Agriculture) & I1 (Industrial)

Residential

E

RA (Agriculture)

Residential

W

R-1 (Residential) & I1 (Industrial)

Residential and Vacant

         

 STAFF PLANNER:                Elizabeth A. Cook 

Background

Community Wireless Structures, a developer of infrastructure on which wireless service providers lease space, is proposing to construct a 150-foot lattice structure with accompanying antenna and equipment on this ±47.41-acre parcel.  There is an existing house, stables, and the Fairways Driving Range, a golf practice facility, on this parcel at 11435 Lucky Hill Road (Route 655) near Remington.  The property is located between the Remington and Bealeton Service Districts.

The applicant indicates that the requested height is designed to meet the expanding need for wireless coverage along Route 15/29 and along Route 28 in the southern portion of the County.  The applicant's justification identifies a 7-mile gap between the NCT Opal monopole, located at the intersection of Routes 17 and 29 and the SBA lattice structure located near Route 29 in Culpeper County. 

The application indicates interest on the part of Sprint PCS and VoiceStream Wireless to locate on this structure should it be approved, but the application does not indicate a binding commitment from either company to this effect.

STAFF AND AGENCY REVIEW

Staff and appropriate referral agencies have reviewed this request for conformance with the Comprehensive Plan, the Zoning Ordinance and other relevant policies and regulations.  An analysis of these referrals and the actual comments from the appropriate agencies are included as attachments to this report.

Findings

The County’s telecommunications consultant, Atlantic Technology Consultants, Inc. (ATC), has reviewed this application for conformance with applicable Ordinance provisions, and its report follows:

BACKROUND:

Community Wireless Structures proposes to construct a 150-foot lattice tower to support antennas used by wireless service providers.  The objective for the facility is to provide coverage in the Route 15/29 corridor and the surrounding area.  The proposed structure is sited on a parcel located at 11435 Lucky Hill Road (Route 655) near Remington.  The application indicates interest on the part of Sprint PCS (Sprint) and VoiceStream Wireless to locate on this structure should it be approved, but the application does not indicate a binding commitment from either company to this effect.

SITING AND DESIGN:

The proposed structure is sited on a 47-acre parcel zoned RA.  The property is owned by Trust One, James R. & Betty L. Mills, Trustees.  Operation of a golf driving range appears to be the primary use of the property.  The proposed facilities are situated approximately 1,200 feet from the access point to the parcel on Lucky Hill Road.

The structure is sited within a stand of trees of a minimum 100-foot radius depth.  Photo simulations reveal that the upper section of the structure will be highly visible from several prominent locations around the site.  A landscape plan is not included in the proposal nor is it warranted.

Sprint’s antennas are proposed at a height of 140 feet.  All communications equipment including antenna support structure and base station equipment will be located within the board-on-board fenced compound.  The application indicates that the structure will be designed to support six (6) carriers.  However, the site plan only reflects space being allocated to accommodate five (5) equipment shelters within the 50 ft. x 100 ft. fenced compound.

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 Communication 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.

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 detail 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.

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 been completed with a finding of “No Hazard to Air Navigation.”

CO-LOCATION OPPORTUNITIES:

A survey of the area identified several co-locatable structures within 1.2 miles of the proposed site.  A series of power transmission towers, ranging in height between 120 ft. – 140 ft., traverse the area in and around Town of Remington (See Exhibit 1).

COVERAGE ANALYSIS:

Future use of this structure is purely speculative, thus it is difficult to fully evaluate its overall effectiveness in servicing the needs of all carriers that may seek to provide service in the area.  (Sprint was the only service provider for which propagation maps were provided.)  With respect to Sprint, the reported objective for this site is to provide service in the Routes 15/29 and 28 corridors and surrounding area.

Sprint currently operates a network of sites surrounding the proposed site.  The site ID’s, above ground level (AGL) of Sprint’s antennas and the distance to the proposed site is identified in the table below.  The location of each site is shown in Exhibit 2.

 

Site

AGL

Distance

NCT - Opal

137 ft.

3.8 mi.

NCT – Luck Stone

192 ft.

1.8 mi.

SBA

250 ft.

3.4 mi.

 

Sprint’s existing coverage was analyzed through propagation modeling, spectrum analysis and practical testing.

Propagation Modeling

Propagation modeling was used to model Sprint’s existing network coverage produced from the sites identified in the table above.  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 reliable coverage in the area surrounding the proposed structure (see Exhibit 3).

Spectrum Analysis

A spectrum analyzer is a sophisticated instrument used to obtain highly accurate field strength measurements of particular frequencies.  A field strength reading of – 84.91 dBm was recorded approximately 150 feet from the base of the proposed structure, which is well within the range of reliability (See Exhibit 4).  (As previously noted, a signal measuring – 89 dBm or greater is reliable.)

Practical Application

As a final test, an attempt was made to place a wireless call using Sprint service from the same location from which the signal strength reading was taken.  The handset on the wireless phone indicated full signal strength.  A call was successfully placed and maintained from this location.

In each of the analyses described above, Sprint’s service was found to be operating well within acceptable ranges.

ATC RECOMMENDATIONS:

This structure is purely speculative with regard to future use, fails to fulfill a legitimate need based upon Sprint’s existing service and exceeds the County’s maximum height restriction of 120 feet.  Should other service providers seek to provide service in the vicinity of the proposed structure, the existing power transmission towers near the Town of Remington provide excellent co-location alternatives, in addition to the 60–foot water storage tank in the Town.  Given the findings described above and the evidence presented in the application, this structure is not warranted.

Prior to any approval, we recommend that the following contingencies be imposed:

1.       As a 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 a 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.

RECOMMENDATION

It is staff’s evaluation, based on ATC's report and the referral comments, that the proposed special exception application for a lattice structure of 120 feet in height has the following weaknesses:

·         The proposed tower is not clearly addressing a need, as noted by the ATC report.

·         The proposed tower would be located adjacent to existing residential development.

·         The site is not remote from residential areas.

·         The site is planned for rural uses and lies between the Bealeton and Remington Service Districts.

·         Stealth design techniques were not proposed.

·         It is not clearly demonstrated that co-location is not feasible.

·         Co-location at an existing public facility, the Remington water tower was not fully considered to address Sprint's or other potential carriers coverage needs.

It appears other opportunities exist for providers to consider, including a tower height of 80 feet, which would not require a special exception; co-location on the Remington water tower, or co-location on existing power transmission towers near Remington.  Until it has been demonstrated that these possible alternatives do not address the needs of potential carriers, this application is premature.  In addition, with the proposed height of 120 feet, the application is not in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan.  Unless the applicant can adequately address the weaknesses noted above, staff recommends that the Planning Commission forward this request to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation of denial. 

Attachments

1.       Staff and Agency Review

2.       ATC Exhibit-1, Exhibit-2, Exhibit-3, Exhibit-4

3.       Applicant’s Statement of Justification and Exhibits: Pages 1-5, Pages 6-10, Pages 11-15

4.       Town of Remington:  Pages 1-5, Pages 6-11

5.        Zoning Review

6.       Architectural Review Board Recommendation

7.       Sheriff's Office

8.   Map 1, Map 2, Map 3, Map 4

 

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 Rural/Conservation 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.

The proposed location is in an area planned for rural uses located between the Bealeton and Remington Service Districts.  In addition, the tower would be visible above the tree tops.  However, the tower would be located within a wooded area.

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

The tower would be located in an area planned for rural uses; however, it is adjacent to existing residential properties and within 2,000 feet of the Ashley Glen subdivision, which is currently under development.

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

The applicant is not proposing stealth techniques.

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

The proposed application does not clearly demonstrate that co-location on existing facilities is not feasible.

Ø      Publicly owned land should be considered.



The applicant has not clearly demonstrated that the Remington water tower would not be a feasible co-location opportunity for Sprint and other carriers.  It is understood that the applicant would not benefit from a co-location option.  The Town of Remington has commented that it is interested in renting space on its storage tank.  In addition, the Town has expressed concern that the 150-foot lattice tower would be unsightly and would have a very negative visual impact on the surrounding area.  The Town of Remington comments are included as Attachment 4.

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

While the proposed facility is within a wooded area, it is located in close proximity to residential properties.

Ø      Towers should be located on a down slope.

The area is relatively flat and no such opportunities exist.

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

There has been no indication that the proposed tower would block 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.

I will need to look at my map to check this one.

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

The application has been reviewed for general Zoning Ordinance conformance by the County’s telecommunications consultant, whose analysis is in the preceding staff report.  Additionally, the Zoning Office has noted that an ingress/egress easement for public emergency and maintenance vehicles shall be granted to the County (Sect. 7-305), and that a Major Site Plan will be required should this special exception be approved (Article 12).  These items should be incorporated into development conditions, if the Planning Commission wishes to recommend approval of the application.  Comments from the Zoning Office are included as Attachment 5.

In addition, due to the proposed tower height of 150 feet, the Zoning Ordinance required the applicant to present its proposal to the Architectural Review Board (ARB)(See Attachment 6).  The ARB did review the applicant's request and made some initial findings related to the tower design and height.  However, the ARB's final recommendation was as follows:
 

"The Architectural Review Board would prefer telecommunication installations be attached to existing structures, such as Church Steeples, Water Tanks, Silos and Power Transmission Towers.  However the wooded site proposed by Community Wireless has merit and the Board would give a favorable recommendation for a tower designed for mitigated visual impact, such as light gray lattice, not to exceed 80 feet in height."

3.       Emergency Communications

The County Emergency Management Director has noted the following for all proposed tower applications:

“…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.”

In addition, the Sheriff's Office has expressed a concern about the location of future County communication facilities on the proposed tower.  If the Planning Commission wishes to forward this application to the Board of Supervisors, these concerns should be incorporated into a development condition.  The Sheriff's Office comments are included as Attachment 7.

4.       Environmental
It should be noted that stormwater management will need to be addressed at the time of site plan.