Albemarle Planning Commission Reluctantly Approves Tower

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The Albemarle County Planning Commission met Tuesday, August 9, and during that meeting they voted by a narrow 3-2 margin to approve a 125-foot tower that will be located between the baseball diamond and the football field on the southern border of Albemarle High School property. Albemarle High School sits on a 219-acre lot on the west side of Hydraulic Road in a rural area.

Charlottesville Tomorrow reported that the VA-based tower will “be worth more than $50,000 to county schools.” The monies include $30,000 one-time wireless facility revenue and $24,000 annually from antenna array leasing.

Initially the Albemarle County Architectural Review Board voted not to support the tower, “but in May issued a certificate of appropriateness only for the ground equipment associated with the structure,” the Tomorrow said. County staff and nearby residents voiced some opposition before the board’s vote, citing obstruction of views due to the antennas, possible health problems, being out of character for the neighborhood and the specific location on the Albemarle High School property.

Despite the opposition, some were on the other side of the fence. Other staff members said that about 60 percent of students in the area could not afford broadband connectivity, and that the tower would help get internet service to needy students.

The Tomorrow noted that the approval came with a height condition—105 feet—“to account for a federal rule that allows telecommunication tower companies to increase the height of an existing approved pole by 20 feet.” Additionally, the monopole will be unpainted galvanized steel, visible above the tree line, and ground equipment will be surrounded by shrubs and a chain-link fence.

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