Critics Kill Tower at School, Say It Makes Kids ‘Guinea Pigs’
The Albemarle County Planning Commission denied the construction of a 145-foot tall cell phone tower proposed by Milestone Communications for Western Albemarle High School grounds, reported The Daily Progress. The project, first proposed last year, would have been located behind the football field bleachers and reach the households of 400 students who don’t have broadband access at home, officials said.
The school district could have seen additional revenue from the project, including $25,000 after the monopole was constructed, $5,000 if a second carrier set up service plus 40 percent of gross revenues from leasing space on the pole. Milestone proposed a 10-year lease to the School Board for access to the land.
There were arguments for and against the tower from staff and residents. Kate Acuff, chairwoman of the county School Board, said the tower would help to provide more equitable access to students, regardless of their financial status. Some residents in opposition to the project were concerned about health effects and “aesthetic threats” to nearby homes. “I’m concerned that people are not going to want to live in Crozet if they know their kids are going to be guinea pigs,” said parent Atieno Bird.
Ultimately, the planning commission nixed the project based on the location, height, and design of the pole, as well as the method of antenna attachment, fearing it would be too visible to surrounding residential buildings. The commission also decided the facility was not adequately screened; Milestone proposed five antenna arrays instead of the county-regulated maximum of three and the commission was concerned the tower didn’t fit within the county’s Comprehensive Plan. Since the planning commission serves as an advising body, the proposal will now move on to the Board of Supervisors, reported the Progress.