Background on AT&T Tower on Short Hill Mountain
The Board of Directors of Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains (FBRM) is surveying its membership regarding the possible construction of an AT&T Tower on Short hill.
AT&T is proposing to build a 125-foot monopole at White Rock Road on Short Hill Mountain. The facility requires a special exception zoning permit from the Loudoun County Planning Commission because the proposed tower will be built on the ridge line which is in violation of current Loudoun County policy and a violation of the current Zoning Ordinance.
FBRM is considering sending a letter to the Planning Commission regarding the proposed tower. Debate and discussion among the FBRM Board of Directors indicates a range of opinions. Some support the request for a special exception as necessary to improve broadband and cell service for a number of residents of Western Loudoun County. Others oppose the request as it violates the current zoning code and County policy against building on the ridge line and it is not the only option available to AT&T to improve service.
With this survey the Board of Directors is asking you to tell us what action – if any – the Board should take regarding the requested zoning action.
This Background Paper presents brief summaries of major points in support of and in opposition to the construction of the tower.
In the interest of full disclosure, there are strong indications that the Board of Supervisors is going to approve construction of the tower regardless of any opposition because they see it as a strong step to improving broadband and cell service in Western Loudoun.
Points in support of approving the zoning request:
- AT&T contends that the proposed tower will enhance its ability to provide seamless, interconnectedcommunications for first responders and federal agencies on one cellular broadband system. They have provided maps showing before and after coverage areas.
- AT&T contends that with the tower it will be able to significantly improve cell phone and broad band service to a large rural population in western Loudoun County that is underserved.
- The proposed AT&T site is already serviced by road, already deforested at the ridgeline, supporting buildings can be built without further environmental damage, and the tower can be kept to a minimum height of 125 feet.
- A representative of a different tower company supports the AT&T contention that the proposed ridgeline tower is necessary in order to have telecommunications and future broadband to the area. While it would be technically possible to drop the tower down off the ridgeline, the height of a lower tower would need to be increased to the height of the proposed ridgeline tower in order to be as effective. In addition, having two lower towers, one on each side of the mountain, would not be as effective.
- The tower will not have lighting, according to the spokesmen of AT&T.
Points in opposition of approving the zoning request:
- The proposed location of the AT&T tower is in direct violation of the current County Zoning Ordinance which states that telecommunications monopoles shall not be located along ridge lines, but downslope from the top of ridge lines, to protect views of the Catoctin, Bull Run, Hogback, Short Hill, and Blue Ridge Mountains. Approving the tower could set a precedent for approving other towers on the ridge line.
- The AT&T tower is intended to enhance mobile (wireless) broadband service in northwestern Loudoun County around Short Hill Mountain. It would not address the need to provide dedicated fast broadband services to homes and businesses in this area beyond that available via wireless transmission that normally connects smart phones to the internet.
- AT&T has other technological options available to enhance its mobile coverage. Principle among these would be the use of multiple antennas spread throughout this service area.
- The term “monopole” does not adequately describe the visual impact of this proposed facility. This is not just a single pole jutting atop the ridge line, but rather is a complex boxy-appearing antenna segments attached at multiple heights.
Regardless of any position FBRM takes regarding the AT&T tower you may want additional information. You may also want to submit written comments directly and/or sign up to speak at the Commission meeting. Planning commission hearing is scheduled for June 22. You may also leave comments on LOLA.
The specific website for LOLA: https://www.loudoun.gov/
Click on “searchable list” and put in application number CMPT-2020-0005