New personal wireless facilities are permitted by-right in all zoning districts, subject to meeting specific performance criteria required in Article 11 of the Zoning Ordinance. If certain standards cannot be met, an applicant is required to obtain a Special Exception. A Special Exception is a permit for a use or structure that is not allowed as a matter of right, but may be permitted if the proposed application is determined to not adversely affect the surrounding area and wider community, according to the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance.
Special Exception applications in Fauquier County go through a two-step public hearing process. The first public hearing is before the Planning Commission, which makes an advisory recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. The second public hearing is held by the Board of Supervisors, which makes the decision on whether the Special Exception application is approved (with or without conditions), denied, or deferred for further consideration.
For a brief summary please see our Special Exception Brochure.
Special Exception and SE Amendment Process
- The Pre-Application meeting will allow staff and outside review agencies to provide initial guidance to the Applicant regarding the project, and outline the regulatory/approval process(es) applicable to the proposed development.
- Note: A Pre-Application Meeting may not be required for Special Exception Amendments. Please contact the Planning Division at 540-422-8210 to schedule a Pre-submission Meeting. The Applicant is responsible for bringing a plat, Illustrative/Concept Development Plan for the proposed use and any other pertinent information such as Special Exception, Rezoning or Comprehensive Plan Approval (Conditions, Proffers, etc.) to the meeting.
2. Meeting with Architectural Review Board
Concurrent with the submission of a Special Exception application, a proposal for a Tier 3, 4 or 5 Facility within 0.5 miles of a property listed in the National Register of Historic Places, proposed on or adjacent to a battlefield “study area” as defined and mapped by the American Battlefields Protection Program, or located within 0.5 miles of a designated National or Virginia Scenic Byway must be submitted to the Fauquier County Architectural Review Board (ARB) for review, per Section 11-203.1 of the Zoning Ordinance. The proposal with full description of the project, including the compound; photographs of existing conditions; photo simulations, preferably from the nearest historic resource and/or Virginia byway; and plat must be submitted electronically to the County Preservation Planner at least 2 weeks prior to the ARB meeting date in order for the project to be added to the ARB meeting agenda — generally, by the third Wednesday of the month. The ARB is scheduled to meet the first Wednesday of every month. (ARB meetings may be cancelled or postponed with public notification. Contact the Preservation Planner for more information regarding a specific meeting date at 540-422-8210.)
3. Formal Application
- Once the Pre-Application meeting is held, a formal Special Exception application may be filed. The application must be filed no later than 60 calendar days prior to the Planning Commission's meeting. The Planning Commission meets the 3rd Thursday of each month in the Warren Green Building at 10 Hotel Street, Warrenton, Virginia, 20186. Filing deadlines can be found on the Planning Commission page.
Telecommunications Special Exception
Application Submission Requirements:
- Land Development Application with original signatures
- Special Exception Fee Calculation Sheet
- Fee ($1,000 base fee)
- Telecommunications Special Exception Checklist signed
- Conflict of Interest Statement
- 10 copies of Statement of Justification
- Posting Affidavit (detailed in Public Hearing section)
The main purpose of the Statement of Justification is to document project compliance and justify the reason(s) for the project not meeting the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance. The Statement of Justification must address project compliance with applicable provisions in the following sections of the Zoning Ordinance: Section 5-006 and Sections 11-303 through 11-308 (as applicable).
- 10 copies of Special Exception Plat (folded)
- 10, 11"x17" reductions of Special Exception Plat
- A statement signed by the applicant indicating that the applicant shall comply with all applicable Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules and regulations.
- A minimum of three (3) photographs showing the existing conditions of the site and three (3) photo simulations of the proposed tower from different perspectives. Address how the facility is designed to mitigate the visual impact on area residents, facilities, roads, and any designated Virginia Byways or properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places within a one-mile radius of the proposed facility in the Statement of Justification.
- If the proposed tower height is greater than 199 feet or within five (5) miles of the property boundary of the Warrenton-Fauquier County Airport, a finding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) indicating that the proposed facility is not a hazard or obstruction to public and private aviation fields. A report or statement from the FAA that makes a determination regarding required lighting of the proposed tower.
- Flash drive containing clear copies of individual PDFs of all submission materials. - Do not include any financial information (i.e., copy of checks or the fee calculation sheet).
Note: Contact the case manager (540-422-8210) identified during the Pre-Application meeting if you have questions regarding submission requirements.
3. Planning Commission Public Hearing
- After an application has been accepted, it will be reviewed by various County and State agencies. Staff will send letters to adjoining property owners notifying them of the Planning Commission meeting. The applicant is required to post notice signs (prepared by staff) on the property at least 15 days prior to the Planning Commission hearing date, and then to provide an affidavit to staff showing that the posting was done at the required time.
- Staff will prepare a report on the application. This staff report will be provided to the Planning Commission, with a copy to the applicant in advance of the meeting. Copies of the report will also be available to the public and online at the county's NOVUS Agenda Page
- The day of the Planning Commission meeting, an earlier work session is typically held, and applicants are encouraged to attend.
- The Planning Commission holds its public hearing in the evening, starting at 6:30 p.m. The applicant and public will have the opportunity to speak at the hearing. After the public hearing is held, the Planning Commission can recommend approval, recommend denial, or defer the item for further consideration. If the PC defers the item, it will be brought back at a future meeting date for action.
4. Board of Supervisors Public Hearing
- Once the Planning Commission makes its recommendation, the item moves forward for the Board of Supervisors' consideration. The Board of Supervisors meets the second Thursday of each month. Typically a case acted upon by the Planning Commission goes to the Board of Supervisors the next month.
- Prior to the meeting date, notices are again sent and posting is required just as it was with the Planning Commission meeting.
- Staff will prepare an updated report for the Board of Supervisors. After the public hearing, the Board of Supervisors can approve the application, deny the application, or defer the item for further consideration.
- After the Board of Supervisors takes its final action, if approved, the applicant will receive an approval letter from staff regarding the Special Exception. Site plans and building permits are required for any new construction.
I would like a telecommunications facility installed on my property or in my area. How do I go about doing this?
Fauquier County is responsible for reviewing telecommunications applications and determining their compliance with local regulations and the Comprehensive Plan. The County does not offer assistance to private property owners in soliciting new telecommunications facilities. If interested in establishing a lease agreement, a property owner must contact an industry representative—a service provider, tower owner, or site acquisition firm.
What are the health effects of radio frequency emissions, and why doesn’t the County emphasize this during the review of a telecommunications application?
Provided that a wireless provider meets the Federal standards for emissions, local governments are prohibited from denying an application for a new wireless facility or the expansion of an existing facility on the grounds that radio frequency emissions are harmful to the environment or to human health.
Several organizations and agencies have published information on this topic, including:
Federal Communication Commission (FCC), RF Fields Guidelines for Cellular and PCS Sites
World Health Organization (WHO), Electromagnetic Fields in Base Stations and Wireless Technologies
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
When is it necessary to request a Special Exception for a proposed telecommunications facility?
A Special Exception is required for Tier 5 Facilities located outside of a Targeted Geographic Service Area as well Tier 4 Facilities located outside of a Targeted Service Area that does not meet all facility standards as outlined within Zoning Ordinance Section 11-303 and 11-307. Contact the Planning Division of the Community Development Department at (540) 422-8210 for assistance in determining the need for a Special Exception.