How a Tower Can Balance Out the “Haves and Have Nots”

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UPDATE In a surprising turn of events, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted for a cell tower proposed by Milestone Communications with planned construction on Western Albemarle High School property, reported the Crozet Gazette. The board was poised to deny the application of the 145-foot tall tower when Supervisor Rick Randolph suggested that the applicant come back, “with a tower proposal that is closer to 80 feet, and therefore would have surrounding existing trees that would make it consistent with code.”  

Attorney Lori Schweller, representing Milestone Communications, asked to modify the proposal to a tower height of 80 feet. “It’s a severe mitigation from the schools’ point of view, but they’d rather have an approval tonight than no approval at all,” said Schweller. Additionally, Schweller explained that the original height request was dictated by the school division, not by Milestone. “The schools had asked for 145 feet because they needed to cover a particular area to get wireless coverage to their students,” she said but indicated that the lower height would still expand coverage to some degree.  

Board chair Anne Mallek spoke out against the project since no balloon testing or materials were available to properly deliberate. Conversely, Supervisor Diantha McKeel pleaded for the tower, citing the “‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’” within the community. “…This is a critical piece for our young people who need the access so they will have the same advantages as others when they graduate..,” she said.

After the board voted to approve the proposal, Schweller said the process now moves to site and building plans. The specifics of the lease agreement—a ten-year term, a one-time $25,000 payment to the county when the tower is built, plus 40 percent of any annual carrier rental revenues—were previously approved by the School Board, contingent upon the proposal receiving BOS approval, reported the Crozet Gazette.  

With an 18-year-old wireless ordinance, Supervisor Galloway stressed the need for the BOS to get with the times. Galloway noted, “…we [must] quit putting the community through having to support or not support the tower based on its location…There are other things we need to discuss beyond just visibility, and it behooves this Board to dive into those values.”  Comments? Email us.

October 11, 2018

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