PLANNING COMMISSION: MAY 11, 2004
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: JUNE 2, 2004
The applicant’s proposal is for the removal of an existing 175-foot tall guyed tower that has a 23-foot long antenna mounted at its top, and replacement with a new 149-foot tall guyed tower that would have a 40-1/2 foot tall antenna rod extending from its top (Attachment A). Although the widest portion of the existing tower is currently 41 inches in width and the proposed tower would be 48 inches in width to provide the necessary structural support. In addition to the removal of the 175-foot tall tower, the applicant’s request indicates that a shorter tower supporting Adelphia Cable’s facilities at this site will also be removed. The newly proposed tower will fitted with the top-mounted antenna, as well as five (5) dishes, two (2) YAGI antennas and another side-mounted antenna rod, resulting in a reduction in the sizes and number of attachments from those that currently exist (Attachment B). The property described as Tax Map 91 - Parcel 28I, is part of a larger parcel identified as Tax Map 91- Parcel 28 which contains 234.165 acres, zoned RA, Rural Areas (Attachment C). This site is located in the Scottsville Magisterial District, on Carter's Mountain Trail, approximately 1 mile south of the intersection with the Thomas Jefferson Parkway [State Route 53]. This site is designated as Rural Area 4 by the Comprehensive Plan.
This petition is for a special use permit to allow the construction of the new television tower and its related transmission facilities, in accordance with Section 10.2.2.6 of the Zoning Ordinance, which allows radio wave transmission and relay towers in the RA zoning district. This proposal would support the establishment of a new local CBS television affiliate, while still accommodating the existing transmittal equipment for WHSV, the ABC television station in Harrisonburg, and Adelphia Cable currently attached to the existing tower.
Several towers, satellite dishes and various other communications facilities are currently located within the existing “tower farm” at the top of Carter’s Mountain. Staff has identified that the following actions that have been taken to approve several of those facilities since 1978:
SP 78-42 Motorola - On October 4, 1978, the Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit request to allow a 200-foot tall communication tower.
SP 79-76 Jefferson Cable - On January 18, 1980, the Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit request to allow a 5-meter satellite receiving dish.
SP 80-02 Shenandoah Valley TV - On March 19, 1980, the Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit request allowing the removal of an existing 230-foot tall tower, and replacement with a 186-foot tall television tower. The replacement of this existing tower is being proposed in this request.
SP 88-14 Central Virginia Educational TV - On May 4, 1988, the Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit request to allow a 293-foot tall television tower.
SP 90-74 Charlottesville Cellular - On September 19, 1990, the Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit request to allow a 150-foot tall cellular telephone tower.
SP 91-23 Charlottesville Quality Cable - On August 7, 1991, the Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit request to allow a 200-foot tall wireless cable transmission tower.
SP 93-10 Crown Orchard Company (WVIR-TV) - On June 9, 1993, the Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit request to allow a 60-foot tall television reception tower.
SP 93-15 RAM/BSE Communications - On July 14, 1993, the Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit request to allow a multi-purpose tower not to exceed 300-feet in height.
SP 94-37 Centel Cellular - On March 13, 1995, the Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit request to allow a 200-foot cellular telephone tower.
SP 96-16 Stu-Comm. Inc. - On July 10, 1996, the Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit request to allow a 190-foot multi-purpose tower.
SP 00-88 Carter’s Mountain Emergency Communication Facility - On April 18, 2001 the Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit request to allow a 250-foot tower as part of the regional emergency communications system.
SP 00-72 Crown Orchard (NEXTEL/Crown Castle) - On April 16, 2001, the Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit request to allow the co-location of an additional array of antennas, on an existing 270-foot tall guyed tower owned by American Tower Corporation, and a new 9’x16’ equipment building.
SP 02-43 Crown Orchard (WVIR-TV) - On December 4, 2002, the Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit request to allow the construction of a 250-foot tall lattice tower, 30 feet at its base and 5 feet at its top, for the attachment of an antenna supporting the Virginia Broadcasting Corporation’s federally mandated transition from analog to digital broadcasting.
SP 02-71 Crown Orchard Co. / Pinnacle Carters Mountain - On March 19, 2003, the Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit request to allow the co-location of two additional arrays containing six (6) antennas an existing tower 205-foot tall tower.
SP 03-22 ECC Carters Mountain/Crown Orchard-Extension - On April 16, 2003, the Board of Supervisors approved a request to amend an existing special use permit for the by extending its period of validity and allowing a minor increase in the size of an equipment building for a facility supporting the regional emergency communications with a 250 foot high lattice tower, originally approved as SP 00-88.
SP 03-31 Albemarle County Fire Department Communication Amendment - On April 16, 2003, the Board of Supervisors approved a request to amend an existing special use permit to allow the attachment of an antenna, consisting of two 80-inch segments supporting communications for the County of Albemarle’s Fire-Rescue services, at 148 and 165 feet on an existing tower 205-foot tall tower.
Character of the Area:
This facility site is located within an existing “tower farm” at the top of Carter’s Mountain on property owned by Crown Orchard Company. The facilities maintained by Gray Television on this specific portion of the site were originally approved in 1980. Several other existing facilities with towers ranging between 60 and 300 feet in height are located on the subject property. The site is accessed from Carter’s Mountain Road, which begins at the east side of Route 53, south of Michie Tavern. Although the outlying area surrounding the tower farm consists of orchards, there are no significantly sized trees within the immediate area that provides any effective screening or camouflaging of the existing towers. There are no dwellings within 2000 feet of the Gray Television facilities and the nearest public road is approximately one mile away.
Staff has reviewed this request for compliance with the provisions of Section 22.214.171.124 of the Zoning Ordinance and recommends approval with conditions.
Staff notes that the building area for this proposal is already largely cleared and does not necessitate any significant disturbance. Furthermore, vehicular access is already provided to the site is from the private access road which begins at State Route 53 and extends south to the site. Therefore, staff’s 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 and the new equipment building at the proposed location.
The Open Space Plan and the Natural Resources and Cultural Assets (Chapter 2 of the Comprehensive Plan) provide staff with guidance for the protection of the County’s natural, scenic and historic resources, and preservation and management of those resources in order to protect the environment for future use. Staff has identified the two Open Space resources that could potentially be affected by this application as the Mountain Resource Area and important historic sites.
The site is located in the resource area for Carter’s Mountain which begins at the 700 foot contour on the USGS maps and peaks at an elevation of approximately 1,400 feet above sea-level (ASL). The Comprehensive Plan designates mountains as major open space systems that provide scenic views, naturally forested areas and wildlife habitat, and are recommended for protection in the Rural Areas. Staff has identified the following general standard that has been set forth for protecting mountain resources.
· Locate houses and structures to make them unobtrusive in the landscape.
- Do not build structures taller than the natural tree canopy.
- Do not locate houses and structures where they will be “skylighted” against the horizon.
- Do not alter the continuity of the ridgeline.
There is no existing tree canopy with close proximity that could provide assistance in mitigating the facilities within the tower farm. There are several existing towers located within this area that are comparable in height to that of the proposed tower. Because the terrain in areas surrounding the subject parcel varies greatly, concerns for the possibility of skylighting (visibility of structures in against open skies without background) and altering the continuity of the ridgeline are mainly issues that differ depending upon the locations from which the structures can be viewed. This tower would be skylighted from a number of locations. However, the continuity of the ridgeline has already been altered the facilities that currently exist within the tower farm, and the main structure of the proposed tower would actually be approximately 26 feet shorter than that of the existing tower.
The Open Space Concept Map identifies several historic sites on properties that are located on adjacent parcels and other nearby properties. This includes the Nationally Registered Historic Properties of Monticello and Michie Tavern, both of which are located to the north of Carter’s Mountain, and Simeon which lies east of the site. Because of the different distances and changing topography, the visibility of this site from each of those historic properties varies.
Personal Wireless Service Facilities Policy:
In accordance with the guidelines set forth in the Personal Wireless Service Facilities Policy, staff analysis is focused mainly on the visual impact of proposed facilities from surrounding properties and roadways. Except when strategically sited and designed to minimize visibility and mitigate their impacts upon the natural landscape, wireless facilities should not be located within “Avoidance Areas” such as mountains. This includes the recommendation for implementing structures that are no taller than the natural tree canopy, and locating structures so that they are not “skylighted” against the horizon, and do not alter the ridgeline. As a result of the structure heights and the fact that they are situated at the top of a mountain, the towers on Carter’s Mountain are already skylighted, and highly visible from several points throughout the County and the City of Charlottesville.
Although the Personal Wireless Service Facilities Policy does not apply directly to this proposal, it does encourage other types of facilities to adhere to the policy to the extent possible. In this particular case, staff recognizes that the applicant has already addressed some concerns that parallel those set forth in the policy manual by proposing the construction of a facility that will accommodate any possible future switch to digital broadcasting without the need to replace or otherwise alter the tower.
Staff will address each provision of Section 126.96.36.199 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,
As a result of the tower farm’s elevation and the heights of the existing structures within it, this site is highly visible from several points throughout the County and the City of Charlottesville. However, because the tower farm is located at the top of Carter’s mountain and near the center of a large parcel, it is physically isolated from the adjacent properties. Therefore, it is staff’s opinion that the proposed replacement tower and its new equipment building would not impose any additional, substantial detriment to adjacent property.
that the character of the district will not be changed thereby,
The preservation of agricultural and forestal lands and activities, and conservation of the natural, scenic and historic resources are important purposes that have been set for the Rural Areas zoning district. The uses allowed in this district by right are either residential development, or those related to agricultural and forestal activities. The uses that are allowed by special use permit in the Rural Areas district are most often for services related to those by-right activities.
This particular site is surrounded by orchards and a combination of forests and pastures. Although several existing facilities with towers, antennas, and satellites and microwave dishes are already present at this site, the newly proposed television tower and facility alone should not have the effect of changing the character of the district. Concerns for the possibility of adverse impacts are often increased when several towers and facilities are established at one location. However, in this instance the applicant would be removing an existing tower and replacing it with a shorter one, while still increasing the number of television stations supported by this facility from one to two users. Therefore, once the existing tower has been removed, this proposal could virtually be viewed as a collocation opportunity.
and that such use will be in harmony with the purpose and intent of this ordinance,
Staff has reviewed this request with consideration for several of the purposes and intents that are set forth in Sections 1.4 of the Zoning Ordinance could be seen as relating to this request. Staff has recognized that whenever telecommunication facilities cannot be designed to stealthily blend in with the existing surroundings, there is a preference to co-locate on existing structures within utility easements or to build new structures in areas where similarly designed facilities are 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 that could intensify the adverse visual impacts.
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.” It is clear that the existing facilities on Carter’s Mountain provide a wide range of services to County residents and other people throughout the area. This includes support for television and radio broadcasts as well as emergency and personal wireless telecommunications. The proposed tower would accommodate the establishment of the second nationally affiliated broadcast television station intended to serve the County Albemarle, and the rest of the Charlottesville metropolitan area. In addition to the network television shows that deliver entertainment and news programs on a national level, local television broadcasts also allow the public to have access to regionally focused news and weather reports.
The purposes and intents set forth in Sections 1.4.5, 1.4.7 and 1.4.8, deal with the protection of historic areas, overcrowding of land and preservation of agricultural and forestal lands and other lands of significant importance to the natural environment, respectively. Again, because this proposal would not result in increasing the number of towers at this site, and because the tower farm is physically isolated from the boundary lines shared with adjacent parcels, staff has identified no significant conflict in this particular request and these purposes and intents. Therefore, it is staff’s opinion that this request could be seen as being harmonious with the relevant purposes and intents of the Zoning Ordinance.
with the uses permitted by right in the district,
Because the orchards located on the subject parcel represent the nearest example of by-right uses that have been used continually in the presence of the existing facilities within the tower farm, it is anticipated that a replacement tower for the proposed television facilities would not have the effect of restricting any other by-right uses within the district.
with additional regulations provided in Section 5.0 of this ordinance, and with the public health, safety and general welfare.
Although television broadcasts are not provided by public utility companies, the supporting facilities that they both implement are often comparable. Section 5.1.12(a) of the Zoning Ordinance addresses the installation of public utility structures such as towers and antennas by stating, in part, that those items shall not endanger the health and safety of workers and/or residents, and will not impair or prove detrimental to neighboring properties. In order to operate this facility, the applicant is required to comply with all of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) guidelines that intended are protect the public health and safety from high levels of radio frequency emissions and electromagnetic fields that are associated with wireless broadcasting and telecommunications facilities.
By providing various forms of information such as public affairs issues, emergency announcements and weather advisories, with the capability for broadcasting live, local television stations may actually be considered as contributing to the public health, safety and welfare on a regional level.
Local broadcast television provides a wide range of services that are important to the community. Approval of this proposal would support the establishment of a new local CBS television station, while still supporting the current broadcasts of an existing Harrisonburg-based ABC affiliate to a local audience. At the same time the applicant has been proactive in proposing a facility design that would utilize a tower that is actually shorter than the existing one, but only necessitates a very minor increase in width (approximately 17%).
Staff has identified the following factors, which are favorable to this request:
1. The existing tower serving this facility will be removed after the proposed tower has been constructed;
2. The proposed changes to this facility would provide a single tower accommodating the co-location of equipment for two television stations and the Adelphia Cable Company;
3. The proposed facility and its appurtenances would allow and possible switches to digital broadcast transmissions for both station without any significant changes to the aoutward appearance;
4. No significant clearing of vegetation would be necessary for the placement of the new tower and facility; and,
5. The new television station would provide the community with additional options and a wider variety in local programming.
Staff has identified the following unfavorable factors that would result from the approval of this request:
1. The proposed tower would be skylighted.
The following factors are relevant to this consideration:
1. The site of the proposed facility is already developed with several facilities and towers that support various types of wireless communications services.
2. The existing tower and transmission building for this facility do not have the capacity to support the addition of the proposed television equipment; and,
3. The FCC-issued license for the proposed CBS affiliate is set to expire in the fall of this year.
It is staff’s opinion that this request is in accord with the provisions of Section 188.8.131.52 and should not impose any substantial detriment to adjacent properties or change the character of the surrounding Rural Area. Therefore, staff recommends approval of the requested special use permit subject to the following conditions:
Recommended conditions of approval:
1. The facility including the tower, its attachments and the new ground equipment building shall be sized, located and built as shown on the construction plans, tower elevations and schematic drawings initialed SBW and dated May 5, 2004. This information is provided in Attachment B of this staff report.
2. Prior to the issuance of a building permit, the applicant shall submit the final revised set of site drawings construction of the facility. Planning staff shall review the revised plans to ensure that all appropriate conditions of the special use permit have been addressed.
3. Engineering Department approval of an erosion and sediment control plan for this site prior to the issuance of a building permit.
4. The height of the tower structure shall not exceed 150 feet and the top of the antenna, including the lightning rod, shall not exceed 190 feet above ground level. No equipment, with the exception of any FAA required flight safety lighting, shall extend higher than the tallest portion of the top-mounted antenna.
5. Antennas supporting services other than television broadcasting shall not be attached to extend above a total height of the tower itself.
6. The width of each side of the tower shall not exceed 50 inches in width.
7. The existing guyed tower that currently supports this facility shall be removed within 60 days of the completion of the new tower.
8. The short existing tower, owned by Adelphia Cable Company shall be removed within 90 days of the discontinuance of its use and in any case no later than October 31, 2004
9. The new ground equipment building shall be painted a natural, dark brown color, and screened on its eastern and western sides with evergreens or a mixture of trees deemed acceptable by the County’s Landscape Planner.
A - Application and Original Request for Special Use Permit
B - Revised Request and Construction Information
C - Tax/Location Maps
View Planning Commission minute
Return to PC actions letter
Return to regular agenda