Better Connection vs. a Better View in Virginia


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UPDATE After speaking up in favor of a cell tower in their neighborhood, the McLean Citizens Association (MCA) is now hearing from residents that do not share their point of view, reports While both sides have acknowledged the presence of coverage gaps in the area, some of the Fairfax County, VA locals enthusiastically support the proposal to build a monopole, while others deride it.

The plan calls for a 114-foot tower in a 50 ft by 50 feet enclosure within property currently housing the Wolf Trap Fire Station. Milestone Communications has requested that Fairfax County issue a special exception to allow the tower. As an unadorned monopole, the tower would stand at 114 feet. However, Milestone spokesman Chris Harold said that an additional 8 feet would be required if the pole were to masquerade as a pine. Without the extra height, Harold said the structure would have a “toilet brush style” appearance.  

Resident John Callanan, who lives near the fire station, railed against a tower of any kind, plain or pine, saying, “How can this not impact and crush property values in our small community?” Callanan and others among the 60 person online crowd at the recent Great Falls Citizens Association questioned why less obtrusive small cell units were not the delivery method of choice.

Harold responded that a cell tower could blanket a 1 to 2 mile radius with coverage, where each small cell unit could extend 500 feet, at most. Small cell units would be more costly to install, he explained, and would make it difficult to reach those in outlying areas. While small cells work well in an urban environment, he explained, they are not ideal in areas where the population is more spread out.

Residents like Katherine Chalmers just want the coverage problem solved. She described her connectivity as “garbage” coverage and commented that Verizon is “basically giving a ‘forget you’ to our neighborhood.” She also expressed her doubts that a new cell tower would get them 5G service. Harold assured her that it would.

While some detractors at the meeting decried the appearance of a cell tower and brought up concerns about health issues, residents like Lonn Waters were supportive. He said that he and his neighbors looked forward to being able to use their cell phones at home. MCA first vice president, Glenn Harris, reaffirmed the organization’s approval, noting, “I do think we need to allow technological progress to occur.”

The cell tower issue comes up for discussion again at the Fairfax County Planning Commission public hearing on May 12, and a Board of Supervisors hearing June 8.

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