A Victory at the Planning Commission
By a 6 to 3 vote the Loudoun County Planning Commission has denied AT&T’s request for a special exception zoning to build a telecommunications tower on the ridge of Short Hill Mountain.
The President of Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains (FBRM) – Peter Weeks — made a presentation and submitted a letter in opposition to the construction of the tower at the June 22, 2021, Planning Commission meeting. Several other organizations including the Loudoun County Heritage Commission, the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), and the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition (LCPCC) as well as individual citizens made presentations and/or submitted letters in opposition to the construction of the tower on the mountain ridge.
During the discussion, the Committee members cited several reasons for denying the zoning exception request. Including:
- Strong public opposition: Several commission members noted that all seven speakers plus all of the written comments received by the Commission, voiced opposition to the tower. Other than the AT&T representative no one spoke or submitted written comments in support of the tower. Commission members also noted that all of the speakers represented organizations or citizens in western Loudoun County. The very group that AT&T would be served by the proposed tower.
- Violation of the Zoning Code: The current zoning code specifically prohibits the construction of telecommunications towers on the mountain ridges. Several commission members said that they could not support such a clear violation of the current zoning code plus they feared setting the precedent that would allow the construction of additional towers on the ridges.
- Skepticism about improved service: Commission members noted that both they and residents of western Loudoun remained about AT&T’s claims of improved services, particularly AT&T’s claims of improved broad band service as a result of the tower.
In his presentation, Peter quoted extensively from comments received from FBRM members and others interested parties about their reasons for opposing the AT&T Tower. The following are a few examples:
- “Don’t open that door. The impact to wildlife and migrant birds is too large. Viewscape will be awful to residents. Sets a bad precedent.”
- “We don’t need a AT&T tower on Short Hill. Place the tower on one of the electric power towers that has already screwed up the scenic quality of that part of Loudoun.”
- “I do not believe that enhancing cellular coverage in this area warrants this exemption application. This will not address the larger scale broadband accessibility issues that we have at our house/home business. I am also worried that representatives will hold this up as evidence of progress toward meeting our Broadband goals, which it is not. And we enjoy the view of Short Hill Mtn as it is.”
- “Send a letter in opposition to president-setting zoning violation. There are other alternatives to this tower.”
- “The tower is contrary to the Comp Plan. It will set a terrible precedent. AT&T should put towers on either side of the mountain instead. with careful planning and construction, it can mitigate any potential environmental damage. STAND BY OUR PLAN! (As we all used to sing 18 years ago…)”
- “The BOS should enforce the ordinances it approves. Exceptions should only come when there is no suitable alternative and an overriding national security need. Saving some money is not an acceptable reason for requesting an exception to policy–find a work-around.”
- “FBRM should oppose the construction of the tower on the Short Hill ridgeline under ANY circumstances. The tower would only extend coverage to a very limited population, and there is no guarantee that AT&T and other providers would or could do so at a competitive, affordable rate. Alternate technologies exist, and the county is committed to extending broadband via fiber to this and nearby residences.”
- “We need to protect our ridge lines…. that’s why there are zoning requirements that prohibit this. There are already two sites for towers on or near the Short Hill…we do not need any more of these.”