STAFF PERSON:                            Stephen B. Waller, AICP               

PLANNING COMMISSION:                   FEBRUARY 3, 2004

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:                  March 10, 2004

 

SP 03-080 PepSi Place Tower

 

Applicant’s Proposal:

 

This proposal is for the construction of a radio broadcast facility using a 60-foot tall tower structure mounted with six antennas and three grid-styled dish antennas for enhancement of its radio broadcast capacities (Attachment A).  Two of the dish antennas would be 4 feet in diameter, while the third would be 6 feet in diameter.  The proposed tower would have widths of 2-1/2 feet at its base and 1-foot, 10 inches at its top and would be attached to the side of an existing building (Attachment B). The property, described as Tax Map 61W, Section 2, Parcel 2A, contains 1.32 acres zoned C-1, Commercial (Attachment C).  This site is located in the Rio Magisterial District, at the intersection of Greenbrier Drive [State Route 866] and Pepsi Place [State Route 1340], approximately 1/2 mile east of the U.S. Route 29 North. The Comprehensive Plan designates this site as Community Service in Neighborhood 2.

 

Petition:

 

This petition is for a special use permit to allow the construction of a new tower and its related transmission facilities, in accordance with Section 22.2.2(2) of the Zoning Ordinance which allows radio wave transmission and relay towers in the C-1 zoning district.  According to the applicant’s request, approval of these facilities will enable the six (6) local Clear Channel radio stations that operate inside the Pepsi Place office building to broadcast a direct wireless signal to existing facilities on Carter’s Mountain.  This would replace the current system, which sends broadcast signals from the radio stations to facilities on Carter’s Mountain by way of telephone lines, to outlying facilities throughout the area before being transmitted through private radios.  The applicant has sited past instances in which problems have occurred with the existing broadcast system due to interrupted telephone services.  This was most recently experienced during Hurricane Isabel, as all of Clear Channel’s local stations were forced off air due to downed telephone lines.

 

Planning and Zoning History:

 

SDP 83-042 Pepsi Cola Administrative Offices - The final site plan for the building which currently houses the Pepsi offices, Clear Channel radio stations and several other professional office uses was approved by the Planning Commission on September 27, 1983 (Attachment D).

 

VA 90-52 Pepsi Bottling Company - At it’s meeting on August 14, 1990, the Board of Zoning Appeals granted approval of a variance allowing the setback for a freestanding sign at the building to the north to be reduced from 30 feet to 10 feet. 

 

Character of the Area:

 

The site of the proposed tower is located approximately 72 feet away from the nearest property line to the north at the northeastern corner of an existing office building identified as 1150 Pepsi Place.  The tower would be connected to broadcast equipment housed inside the building on the third floor with a cable bridge that would extend from a window.  The subject parcel is surrounded by a variety of uses on adjacent properties, ranging from a retirement community and two assisted living facilities, other professional offices and the Pepsi Cola bottling plant.  Because the property also contains a portion of floodplain limits contiguous with a branch of Meadow Creek that runs through the property located to the east it has a lower ground level elevation than many of the surrounding properties.

 

The highest portion of the roof of this building is 46 feet tall.  The side where the tower would be installed is actually 35 feet high.  This site is surrounded by nearby properties containing several buildings and mature trees with top heights that are either similar or taller than that of the office building.  During a field visit, a group of test balloons floated from the roof of the office building were mostly visible from locations that are higher in elevation than the site itself (Attachment E). Staff was also allowed to take photos from the roof of the office building in order to form a better idea of the locations from where the tower might be visible.   Although not many parts of public roads are visible from the rooftop, staff did notice that several of the buildings in the area are within plain view.  Staff also observed that there are several existing towers located within a 2-mile radius of this site ranging between 50 and 150 feet in height.

 

RECOMMENDATION:

 

Staff has reviewed this request for compliance with the provisions of Section 31.2.4.1 of the Zoning Ordinance and recommends approval with conditions.

 

Comprehensive Plan:

 

Staff notes that this proposal does not necessitate any significant disturbance because the area where the tower would be installed is already void of vegetation and vehicular access is already provided to the site from the parking lot of the office building.  None of the important resources identified by the Open Space plan and Natural Resources and Cultural Assets (Chapter 2 of the Comprehensive Plan) are present at this site.  Therefore, review of this request for compliance with the recommendations of the Comprehensive Plan focuses mainly on the possible impacts that could result from the presence of the new tower at the proposed location.

 

Although the Personal Wireless Service Facilities Policy does not apply directly to this proposal, the policy does encourage that other types of wireless communications facilities adhere to the policy to the extent possible.  In accordance with the guidelines set forth in the policy, staff analysis is focused mainly on the visual impact of proposed facilities from surrounding properties and roadways.  The dishes and antennas proposed for the radio broadcast are much larger than the panel and whip antennas that are typical of the personal wireless services.  However, the proposed tower would only be four inches wider than the diameter that is allowed for metal monopoles under the standard conditions.  Anticipated visual impacts may be further mitigated if the tower and its attachments are required to be painted a non-reflective color such as a dark brown in order to blend in with the wooded backdrop provided by the incline on properties to the east.

 

STAFF COMMENT:

 

Staff will address each provision of Section 31.2.4.1 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 construction area for this facility is in close proximity to the existing building and does not affect any of the previously undisturbed areas and all supporting equipment would be contained inside of the existing building.  Based on the balloon test it is anticipated that the portion of the proposed tower extending above the building’s roofline would be visible from adjacent properties located to the north and east.  This includes a part of the Branchlands development that is situated higher than the site and from which the northeast corner of the building is plainly visible.  The tower would also be visible through groups of trees from the other residential developments on the eastern side of Meadow Creek.  However, due to the sizes of several surrounding structures and trees, and the existing office building, the tower would be obscured or have a backdrop when viewed from many angles on adjacent properties to the west.

 

The proposed 60-foot tall tower would be located nearly 72 feet away from the boundary line of the nearest property where another 53-foot tall office building is located.  The proposed tower site is separated from that building by the parking lot on the subject parcel, so the “fall zone” for the proposed tower would not extend beyond that property line.  Therefore, with consideration for the above-mentioned reasons it is staff’s opinion that the proposed tower and its attachments would not impose any additional, substantial detriment to adjacent property.

 

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

 

The subject parcel is zoned C-1 Commercial and is surrounded by various other commercial uses to the north and west and residential properties to the east.  The Zoning Ordinance designates the C-1 zoning district as an area that permits certain retail sales, service and public use establishments that are primarily oriented toward central business sections of the urban areas.  Those uses that are allowed by special use permit in the C-1 zoning district are most often for other compatible establishments or services supporting the by-right activities.  This special use permit would allow that installation of a tower and antennas that would be in support of the existing Clear Channel radio stations, which are by-right uses. 

 

Although the proposed tower would be approximately 25 feet taller than the nearest portion of the building to which it would attached, it would actually be 14 feet taller than the highest point of the building’s roof.   The tower would only be 7 feet taller than the nearest offsite building on the adjacent property to the north.  With a top height of 60 feet the proposed tower would be actually be five (5) feet shorter than the standard height limit of 65 feet for buildings in the C-1 zoning district.  Furthermore, staff has also identified several nearby locations that have taller towers supporting various uses, including the personal wireless service facilities at the Sprint site on Rio Road and the Williams Gas Pipeline Transco radio tower on Greenbrier Drive.  Therefore, staff has not determined that the proposed tower and its attachments would be responsible for changing the character of the district.

 

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

 

Section 1.4.3 states that one of the intents of the Ordinance is, “To facilitate the creation of a convenient, attractive and harmonious community.”  Staff’s review of towers and similar facilities gives consideration for the concerns that this intent sets forth for the possible impact that public service facilities can have upon the natural environment.  Whenever telecommunication facilities cannot be designed to stealthily blend in with the existing surroundings, staff has recognized a preference to co-locate on existing structures, within utility easements or to build new structures in areas where similar facilities are already present.  Both of these practices can be effective for ensuring that new facilities are not located in a manner that requires extensive environmental degradation in addition to the negative visual impacts that could be experienced.  However, in this case the applicant is seeking relief from problems that exist due to a reliance upon transmitting signals over land line telephone– a problem that could likely continue if another off-site location were sought for this tower or its attachments.

 

By providing various forms of information such as public affairs issues, instructional emergency announcements and weather advisories, and with the capability for broadcasting live, local radio broadcasting facilities can be instrumental in promoting the public health, safety and general welfare on a regional level.  The applicant’s request indicates that the ability of Clear Channel’s radio stations to provide these services has been limited at times due to the current dependence upon telephone lines.  Therefore, this proposal can be viewed in compliance with the purpose and intent of the Zoning Ordinance.

 

            with the uses permitted by right in the district,

 

This proposal is in support of an existing by-right use and it would not restrict any of the other uses on the subject parcel, or by-right uses on any 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.

 

Section 5.1.12 states: "The proposed use at the location selected will not endanger the health and safety of workers and /or residents in the community and will not impair or prove detrimental to neighboring properties or the development of the same."  In order to operate this facility and all of its related sites, the applicant is required to comply with the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) guidelines that are intended to protect the public from the effects of radio frequency emissions.

 

SUMMARY

 

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

 

1.                  The tower and antennas would allow the radio stations to broadcast continuously despite interruptions to telephone services;

2.                  All supporting equipment building would located inside the existing office building;

3.                  No clearing of vegetation would be necessary for the placement of the facility;

4.                  The proposed facility would have a substantial amount of backdrop when viewed from various locations to the west of the site;

5.                  The proposed tower would have limited visibility from most nearby public roads; and,

6.                  The top height of the proposed tower would be approximately five feet shorter that the maximum height allowed by the district regulations. 

 

The following factors are relevant to this consideration:

 

1.                  This site is located at a lower elevation than many of the surrounding properties;

2.                  There are several existing towers supporting facilities within a two-mile radius of this site; and,

3.                  Attempting to co-locate the proposed antennas on any of the existing facilities that are located nearby would not eliminate the stations’ reliance upon telephone lines for signal transmission.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

 

It is staff’s opinion that this request is in accord with the provisions of Section 31.2.4.1 and should not impose any substantial detriment to adjacent properties or change the character of the surrounding districts.  Therefore, staff recommends approval of the requested special use permit subject to the with the following conditions:

 

Recommended conditions of approval:

 

1.                  The tower shall be located and built as shown in the applicant’s submittal packet entitled Tower 1150 Pepsi Place, initialed 1/28/04 and included as Attachment B.

 

2.                  Prior to the issuance of a building permit, the applicant shall submit the final revised set of site drawings showing the proposed construction of the tower.  These plans shall include to-scale elevations showing the tower profile and the location of each antenna Planning staff shall review the revised plans to ensure that all appropriate conditions of the special use permit have been addressed. 

 

3.                  The tower structure shall not exceed 60 feet in height.

 

4.                  The width of each side of the tower shall not exceed 30 inches at its base, and 22 inches at the top.

 

5.                  Attachments shall be shall be limited to three (3) dish antennas not to exceed 6 feet in diameter and the six (6) antennas detailed in the applicant’s submittal packet included as Attachment B.

 

6.                  No additional antennas that support services other than radio broadcasting shall be attached to extend above a total height of 60 feet on the tower.

 

7.                  The tower, antennas, dishes and all other equipment attached to above the roof of the existing building shall be painted a non-reflective, dull brown color that reduces its contrast with the sky and blends with the backdrop of trees.

 

8.                  No guy wires shall be permitted.

 

9.                  The tower shall be disassembled and removed from the site within (90) days of the date its use for radio broadcasting services is discontinued.

 

ATTACHMENTS:

 

A -       Application and Request for Special Use Permit

B -       Applicant’s Construction and Antenna Details

C -       Tax/Location Map

D -       Site Plan Section and Plat

E -       Site Photos

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