SUBJECT/PROPOSAL/REQUEST: The applicant’s proposal is for the installation of a personal wireless service facility, which would include a metal monopole, approximately 73 feet in total height, with a top elevation of approximately 868 feet Above Mean Sea Level (Attachment I).  The monopole would be equipped with one antenna array consisting of three 6-foot long by 1-foot wide, flush-mounted panel antennas at its top.  Supporting ground equipment would be contained within two 5-foot tall cabinets on an approximately 100 square-foot concrete pad and a smaller cabinet on a 5 square-foot concrete pad.



Stephen Waller



Planning Commission:  January 20, 2004

Board of Supervisors:  February 11, 2004














The applicant, Alltel Communication, is currently in the process of expanding its services in Albemarle County along the U.S. Route 29 South corridor.  This request is for the approval of a special use permit that would allow the installation of a Tier II personal wireless service facility, in accordance with Section of the Zoning Ordinance, which allows for radio wave transmission and relay towers in the Rural Areas. The 1000 square-foot lease area for this proposed facility is located on property, described as Tax Map 109 - Parcel 43C, containing 2.16 acres.  This parcel is located in the Samuel Miller Magisterial District on the east side of State Route 718 (Murrays Lane), approximately 1-mile north of the intersection with U.S. Route 29.  The property is zoned RA, Rural Areas and designated as Rural Area 3 by the Comprehensive Plan.


The Planning Commission first reviewed this proposal with staff’s recommendation for denial at its meeting on December 2, 2003.  At that time, the Commission voted to accept the applicant’s request for deferral pending revisions to the construction plans to address staffs concerns both with the proposed amount of grading and disturbance and visual impacts that were anticipated based on the original balloon test that was carried out.  Additionally, staff noted that and there were no trees within 25 feet of the proposed monopole location monopole. 


The purpose of this executive summary is to provide an analysis of the new information that has been submitted to amend the original special use permit request application.  In order to provide additional background information for comparing this revised request with the one that was previously presented, the original staff report is included with this executive summary.  The original application proposed the construction of a facility with an 85-foot tall monopole that would be approximately 879 feet above mean sea level (AMSL), and an extensive amount of grading and disturbance was being proposed in close proximity to several of the trees that were identified to remain.  Furthermore, the owner of one adjacent parcel had also expressed concerns with the possible impacts of the facility upon nearby properties that are held in conservation easements and another owner took issue with the 85-foot tall monopole because its “fall-zone” would have extended onto her property.




The applicant, ALLTEL, has attempted to address the concerns that were significant in staff’s recommendation for denial and the Planning Commission’s review of the original petition.  According to the revised construction plans, the proposed 73-foot tall monopole for this facility would now be 11 feet shorter in height, as measured AMSL, than the 85-foot one that was originally proposed.  The revised facility design also replaces the originally proposed 184 square foot ground equipment shelter with two 5.5-foot tall by 4.5-foot wide cabinets on a 100 square-foot concrete pad (Attachment I). Additionally, the revised plans significantly reduce the proposed amount of site grading and eliminate the need for a fall-zone easement on the adjacent parcel identified as Tax Map 109- Parcel 12.


Character of the Area:


The subject parcel is surrounded by properties of various sizes that are all zoned Rural Areas.  This site shares its northern and southern boundaries with three properties that are similar to it in size.  A much larger adjacent parcel that is located to the west (Tax Map 98 - Parcel 15A), on the opposite side of Murrays Lane, is currently held in an easement by the Albemarle County Parks and Recreational Facilities Authority, and some other nearby properties are also held in easements.  The proposed site of the facility is in a wooded area, on the side of Cook Mountain, which peaks at 1024 feet AMSL in this area.  The nearest dwelling that is not located on the subject parcel is feet 101 south of the proposed monopole location, on property identified as Tax Map 109 - Parcel 43C1, and the proposed site of the monopole is located approximately 73 feet from that boundary line.  The facility would be accessed by a proposed 12-foot wide gravel service road extending north from the existing driveway easement that serves the dwelling on the subject property and another on the adjacent parcel to the south.


Staff notes that due to the grading of the revised plan, the location of the proposed monopole would have a base elevation of 795 feet AMSL.  In order reduce the amount of grading necessary for this site, a retaining wall is also proposed just east of the monopole.  The monopole would actually be 5 feet shorter than the tallest tree within 25 feet, a 68-foot Tall Maple (873.2 AMSL), identified as number 262 on the applicant’s tree survey and situated uphill from the site.  Furthermore, there is a 77.7-foot tall Pine tree identified as number 266 on the tree survey located approximately 27 feet away from the proposed monopole.


During a second field visit for the revised plan, staff observed that a balloon floated at the height of the proposed monopole was no longer skylighted above the tree line from Murrays Lane, a matter that had contributed to staff’s concerns for visual impacts (Attachment II).  Instead, the balloon could now be seen within the trees situated between the facility and the road and was still visible from various nearby points on U.S. Route 29 well below the ridgeline with substantial backdrop provided by vegetation on the mountain.  Due to the presence of vegetation on nearby properties the outside of balloon could not be seen from portions of Murrays Lane farther to the north and south of the site.





Staff will address the relevant amendments to this special use permit request as follows:


1.                  Personal Wireless Service Facilities Policy;

2.                  Section of the Zoning Ordinance; and,

3.                  Section 704 (a)(7)(b)(I)(II) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.


1.                  Personal Wireless Service Facilities Policy:


The Personal Wireless Service Facilities Policy identifies conservation easements and Agricultural-Forestal Districts as Avoidance Areas.  Avoidance Areas are defined as locations where visible personal wireless facilities should not be located, but are also not prohibited under certain conditions. Staff recognizes that there have been other sites throughout the county where facilities have been approved on properties that are adjacent to conservation easements and/or Agricultural-Forestal Districts.  Although the proposed facility site is not located within an easement, staff observed the balloon test from a portion of the Wingspread Farm conservation easement after concerns over possible impacts were brought forth by its owner (Attachment III).  Staff has provided photos from a pasture on that property located adjacent to the southbound lane of U.S Route 29, which identified as Tax Map 98 - Parcel 15A.  From this point the balloon was visible well below the ridgeline of Cook Mountain from a pasture and surrounded by several trees that are similar to its proposed height.  Therefore, it is staff’s opinion that a brown monopole at this site would blend in with the natural surroundings to an extent that mitigates the visual impacts upon that particular easement.


2.                  Section of the Zoning Ordinance


The Board of Supervisors hereby reserves unto itself the right to issue all special use permits permitted hereunder. Special use permits for uses as provided in this ordinance may be issued upon a finding by the Board of Supervisors that such use will not be of substantial detriment to adjacent property,


The nearest dwelling to this site is on the property identified as Tax Map 109 - Parcel 43C1, approximately 106 feet south of the location for the proposed monopole.  Based on the observation of a balloon test, which was visible amongst the trees, it is staff’s opinion that the top of the monopole now be well screened from nearby points on Murrays Lane, as opposed to the test original proposal.  This is a result of the reduction in the proposed height of the monopole and shifting of its location closer to the trees that are similar to its height.  However, staff recognizes that the portions of the standard 200-foot tree conservation area would still extend onto adjacent parcels.  Therefore, staff has included a recommended condition that would require the applicant to obtain tree conservation easements on those properties.  


With consideration for the above-cited factors, staff finds that the proposed facility would not impose any additional detriment to adjacent properties.


that the character of the district will not be changed thereby,


The practice of locating personal wireless service facilities in the Rural Areas zoning district is not uncommon in situations where they can be designed to blend into the natural surroundings or attached to existing structures.  By virtue of their design and siting, Tier II facilities are anticipated to have limited visual impacts upon the surrounding areas.  The monopole serving the proposed facility would have sufficient backdrop when viewed from a distance within the U.S. 29 right-of-way and property located on the west side of the road.  Furthermore, the applicant has submitted revised plans that significantly limit the amount of disturbance from that which was originally proposed.  Therefore, it is not anticipated that approval of this revised proposal with all of the applicable conditions would not result in changing the character of the district.


and that such use will be in harmony with the purpose and intent of this ordinance,


Staff has reevaluated this request with consideration for the purpose and intent of the Zoning Ordinance as stated in Section 1.5 (Relation to Environment), which in part states, that the “ordinance is designed to treat lands which are similarly situated and environmentally similar in a like manner with reasonable consideration for the existing use, and character of properties, the Comprehensive Plan, the suitability of property for various uses…”  Due to the changes that have made since this request was originally reviewed and presented to the Planning Commission, and based on the observation of the most recent balloon test, it is staff’s opinion that the current proposal for this special use permit could be established in harmony with the purpose and intent of the Zoning Ordinance.


            with the uses permitted by right in the district,


            The proposed facility would not restrict any of the by-right uses that are allowed on other properties within the district.


with additional regulations provided in Section 5.0 of this ordinance, and with the public health, safety and general welfare.


The Zoning Ordinance also contains section 5.1.40, which sets the requirements for the submittal, review and approval of applications for personal wireless service facilities.  Section 5.1.40b(2) authorizes the Director of Planning and Community Development to allow a facility to be constructed closer to any lot line than the height of its mounting structure, if the applicant acquires an easement from the owner of the adjoining property that lies within the facility’s “fall zone”.   The applicant had submitted a draft copy of a document creating a fall zone easement on part of the adjacent property to the south, and that would have had to be executed and recorded if the original request had been approved.  However, because the height of the proposed monopole has been reduced and its location moved farther north, the issues regarding the monopole’s fall-zone have been resolved.  Therefore, staff has recognized no additional conflicts with the regulations provided in Section 5.0 of the ordinance that pertain to personal wireless service facilities.


            4.         Section 704(a)(7)(b)(I)(II) of The Telecommunications Act of 1996:


The Telecommunications Act addresses concerns for environmental effects with the following language, “No state or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commissions’ regulations concerning such emissions.”  In order to operate this facility, the applicant is required to meet the FCC guidelines for radio frequency emissions.  These requirements will adequately protect the public health and safety.


Neither the Comprehensive Plan nor the Zoning Ordinance prohibits the provision of personal wireless services in any district.  However, both do implement policies and regulations for the siting and design of personal wireless facilities.  The applicant has not provided any information to demonstrate the availability, or lack thereof, of any alternative sites to serve the areas that would be covered by the proposed facility at this site.  Therefore, it is staff’s opinion that the denial of this application would not have the effect of prohibiting the provision of personal wireless communication services.




            Staff has identified the following factors, which are favorable to this request:


            1.         The facility would not restrict any of the permitted and uses on adjacent properties;

2.                  The facility would have a substantial amount of backdrop when viewed from the Entrance Corridor of U.S. Route 29;

3.                  The facility would have a substantial amount of backdrop when viewed from the adjacent property that is located to the west and held in a conservation easement;

4.                  Observation of the balloon test indicates that the proposed monopole would no longer be skylighted at its newly proposed height and location; and,

5.                  The plans have been revised to significantly reduce the amount of disturbance and grading that is being proposed in close proximity to the trees that are identified to remain.


The following factors are relevant to this consideration:


1.                  An adjacent property and several nearby parcels are held within conservation easements, which are considered by the Wireless Policy to be Avoidance Areas;

2.                  The 200-foot tree conservation area that would be required by the standard conditions to surround this facility extends beyond the boundaries of the subject parcel; and,

3.                  The applicant has identified a tree that is actually taller, as measured above mean seal level, than the height of the proposed monopole. 




Based on the review of the revised construction plans and observation of a balloon test, the applicant has amended the request for this facility to an extent that mitigates the most significant concerns for visual impacts that originally prompted staff’s recommendation for denial.  Furthermore, it is staff’s opinion that the additional concerns regarding the amount of disturbance in relationship to the trees that will remain at this site could be addressed with additions to the standard conditions.


            (In the event that the Board chooses to deny this application staff offers the following comment:

In order to comply with the provisions of the Telecommunication Act, staff requests consensus direction from the Board regarding the basis for denial of the application and instruction to staff to return to the Board with a written decision for the Board’s consideration and action.)


            Recommended conditions of approval:


The facility shall be designed, constructed and maintained as follows:


1.                  With the exception of all changes that would be required in order to comply with the conditions listed herein, the facility including the monopole, the ground equipment building, and any antennas shall be sized, located and built as shown on the construction plans entitled, “Alltel- Hardware River Site”, last revised January 8, 2004 and provided herein as Attachment I.  The calculation of pole height shall include any base, foundation or grading that raises the pole above the pre-existing, natural ground elevation.

2.                  The calculation of pole height shall include any base, foundation or grading that raises the pole above the pre-existing, natural ground elevation.

3.                  The top of the pole shall not exceed 73 feet above the finished ground level contour of 795 feet, nor shall it exceed a top height of  868 feet, as measured Above Mean Sea Level (AMSL),

4.                  The metal monopole shall be painted a brown wood color that is consistent with the trees surrounding the site.

5.                  The ground equipment cabinets, antennas, concrete pad and all equipment attached to the pole shall be the same color as the pole and shall be no larger than the specifications set forth in the application plans.

6.                  Only flush-mounted antennas shall be permitted.  No antennas that project out from the pole beyond the minimum required by the support structure, shall be permitted.  However, in no case shall the distance between the face of the pole and the faces of the antennas be more than 12 inches. 

7.                  No satellite or microwave dishes shall be permitted on the monopole.

8.                  No antennas or equipment, with the exception of a grounding rod, not to exceed one-inch in diameter and twelve (12) inches in height, shall be located above the top of the pole.

9.                  No guy wires shall be permitted.

10.              No lighting shall be permitted on the site or on the pole, except as herein provided.  Outdoor lighting shall be limited to periods of maintenance only.  Each outdoor luminaire shall be fully shielded such that all light emitted is projected below a horizontal plane running though the lowest part of the shield or shielding part of the luminaire.  For the purposes of this condition, a luminaire is a complete lighting unit consisting of a lamp or lamps together with the parts designed to distribute the light, to position and protect the lamps, and to connect the lamps to the power supply.

11.              The permittee shall comply with section 5.1.12 of the Zoning Ordinance.  Fencing of the lease area shall not be permitted.

12.              Site grading and graveling around the site shall be minimized to only provide the amount of space that will be necessary for placement of the monopole and equipment shelter.

13.              All proposed grading and construction shall be held outside the dripline of trees to remain.  Additional methods of tree protection, including but not be limited to tree protection fencing, shall be provided for the trees that are identified as numbers 53, 55, 97, 280, 282, 290, 292 and 700 on the tree survey.

14.              The 200-foot radius for the tree conservation area shall be shown on the construction plans.


Prior to the issuance of a building permit, the following requirements shall be met:


15.              Size specifications and other details, including elevation drawings of the antennas and ground equipment shall be included in the construction plan package.

16.              Certification by a registered surveyor stating the height of the tallest tree within 25 feet that will used to justify the final height of the monopole shall be provided to the Zoning Administrator. 

17.              Prior to beginning construction or installation of the pole, the equipment cabinets or vehicular or utility access, an amended tree conservation plan, developed by a certified arborist shall be submitted to the Zoning Administrator for approval.  The plan shall specify tree protection methods and procedures, and identify any existing trees to be removed on the site - both inside and outside the access road and lease area.  All construction or installation associated with the pole and equipment pad, including necessary access for construction or installation, shall be in accordance with this tree conservation plan.  Except for the tree removal expressly authorized by the Director of Planning and Community Development, the permittee shall not remove existing trees within two hundred (200) feet of the facility.  A special use permit amendment shall be required for any future tree removal within the two hundred-foot buffer, after the installation of the subject facility.

18.              The applicant shall obtain easements upon the portions of all adjacent parcels that lie within the area designated as the 200-foot radius tree conservation area that is required around the facility.

19.              With the building permit application, the applicant shall submit the final revised set of site plans for construction of the facility.  During the application review, Planning staff shall review the revised plans to ensure that all appropriate conditions of the special use permit have been addressed.


After the completion of the pole installation and prior to the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy or to any facility operation, the following shall be met:


20.              Certification by a registered surveyor stating the height of the pole, measured both in feet above ground level and in elevation above sea-level (ASL) using the benchmarks or reference datum identified in the application shall be provided to the Zoning Administrator.

21.              Certification confirming that the grounding rod’s: a) height does not exceed one foot above the monopole; and, b) width does not exceed a diameter of one-inch, shall be provided to the Zoning Administrator.

22.              No slopes associated with construction of the facility shall be created that are steeper than 2:1 unless retaining walls, revetments, or other stabilization measures acceptable to the County Engineer are employed.


After the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy, the following requirements shall be met:


23.              The applicant, or any subsequent owners of the facility, shall submit a report to the Zoning Administrator by July 1 of each year.  The report shall identify each personal wireless service provider that uses the facility, including a drawing indicating which equipment, on both the monopole and the ground, are associated with each provider.

24.              All equipment and antennae from any individual personal wireless service provider shall be disassembled and removed from the site within ninety (90) days of the date its use is discontinued.  The entire facility shall be disassembled and removed from the site within ninety (90) days of the date its use for personal wireless service purposes is discontinued. If the Zoning Administrator determines at any time that surety is required to guarantee that the facility will be removed as required, the permittee shall furnish to the Zoning Administrator a certified check, a bond with surety satisfactory to the County, or a letter of credit satisfactory to the County, in an amount sufficient for, and conditioned upon, the removal of the facility.  The type of surety guarantee shall be to the satisfaction of the Zoning Administrator and the County Attorney.





            I -        Construction Plans, Revised January 8, 2004

            II -       Balloon Test Photos for Revised Proposal

            III -      Letter from Adjacent Property Owner

Original Staff Report

View PC minutes

Return to Planning action letter