STAFF PERSON: Stephen B. Waller, AICP
PLANNING COMMISSION: NOVEMBER 9, 2004
This proposal is for the installation of a personal wireless service facility, which would replace an existing facility that was approved as SP 98-09 (Attachment A). The facility would have a monopole equipped with one array consisting of two 5-foot long by 1-foot wide, flush-mounted panel antennas at its top. Supporting ground equipment would be contained within two 5.5-foot tall and 4.7-foot wide cabinets on a 160 square foot concrete pad. The lease area for the proposed facility is located on property described as Tax Map 88 - Parcel 26, containing approximately 71.34 acres zoned Rural Areas and Entrance Corridor (Attachment B). This site is located on Arrowhead Valley Road [State Route 745] just east of the intersection with U.S. Route 29 South, in the Samuel Miller Magisterial District. The Comprehensive Plan designates this property as Rural Area 4.
Access to the facility would be taken from an existing gravel road within a 20-foot wide private access easement that begins at the south side of Arrowhead Valley Road, approximately 1/8 mile east of the intersection with Route 29. The existing gravel driveway would have to be extended approximately 167 feet to the east, over an existing dirt road and then 83 feet north through the a wooded area to connect with the lease area.
This item was originally submitted as a special use permit. However, the Board of Supervisors recently adopted the zoning text amendment for personal wireless service facilities, which allows Tier II facilities to be approved by right (see Attachment C).
Character of the Area:
The nearest dwelling is located approximately 1100 feet north of the facility site on an adjacent parcel. The closest property line, which is the boundary shared with Tax Map 88/Parcel 20, is 130 feet south of the proposed monopole location. With an exception of the adjoining property located at the northwestern tip of the subject parcel (Tax Map 88/Parcel 26A) which is zoned LI, Light Industrial, all other adjacent properties are zoned Rural Areas.
Section 3.1 provides the following definitions that are relevant to this proposal:
Tier II personal wireless service facility: A personal wireless service facility that is a treetop facility not located within an avoidance area.
Treetop facility: A personal wireless service facility consisting of a self-supporting monopole having a single shaft of wood, metal or concrete no more than ten (10) feet taller than the crown of the tallest tree within twenty-five (25) feet of the monopole, measured above sea level (ASL), and includes associated antennas, mounting structures, an equipment cabinet and other essential personal wireless service equipment.
Avoidance area: An area having significant resources where the siting of personal wireless service facilities could result in adverse impacts as follows: (i) any ridge area where a personal wireless service facility would be skylighted; (ii) a parcel within an agricultural and forestal district; (iii) a parcel within a historic district; (iv) any location in which the proposed personal wireless service facility and three (3) or more existing or approved personal wireless service facilities would be within an area comprised of a circle centered anywhere on the ground having a radius of two hundred (200) feet; or (v) any location within two hundred (200) feet of any state scenic highway or by-way.
Section 5.1.40(d), entitled Tier II facilities states (Attachment C):
“Each Tier II facility may be established upon commission approval of an application satisfying the requirements of subsection 5.1.40(a) and demonstrating that the facility will be installed and operated in compliance with all applicable provisions of this chapter, criteria (1) through (8) below, and satisfying all conditions of the architectural review board. The commission shall act on each application within the time periods established in section 188.8.131.52. The commission shall approve each application, without conditions, once it determines that all of these requirements have been satisfied. If the commission denies an application, it shall identify which requirements were not satisfied and inform the applicant what needs to be done to satisfy each requirement.”
The applicant has submitted an application and performed a balloon test satisfying the requirements set forth in Section 5.1.40(a). The Architectural Review Board has reviewed this request for compliance with the County’s design entrance corridor design guidelines and recommends approval (Attachment D).
1. Section 5.1.40(d)(1): The facility shall comply with subsection 5.1.40(b) and subsection 5.1.40(c)(2) through (9).
Staff has determined that the proposed facility’s location comply with all of the exemptions of Section 5.1.40(b) and the proposed equipment meets all relevant design, mounting and size criteria set that are set forth in Section 5.1.40(c)(2) and (3). The remainder of subsection (c) provides requirements that must be enforced if approval is granted for the facility. However, the applicant has already submitted a tree conservation plan that will be subject to the staff review in accordance with Section 5.1.40(c)(4)
2. Section 5.1.40(d)(2): The site shall provide adequate opportunities for screening and the facility shall be sited to minimize its visibility from adjacent parcels and streets, regardless of their distance from the facility. If the facility would be visible from a state scenic river or a national park or national forest, regardless of whether the site is adjacent thereto, the facility also shall be sited to minimize its visibility from such river, park or forest. If the facility would be located on lands subject to a conservation easement or an open space easement, the facility shall be sited to so that it is not visible from any resources specifically identified for protection in the deed of easement.
The site of the proposed facility site is a 400 square feet wooded lease area, situated below and west of the ridgeline of Dudley Mountain. The ground level elevation of the lease area is located between the 783 and 787-foot contour intervals just below the Mountain Resource Area, which begins at the 800-foot contour interval. During a field visit staff observed the test balloon floated at the top height of the proposed monopole for this facility from several nearby vantage points. Staff notes that the balloon representing the Ntelos monopole that is being discussed in this report is the smaller of the two in the photos (Attachment E).
When viewed from the southbound lane of Route 29, near the intersection with Arrowhead Valley Road, the balloon had backdrop provided by a distant portion of Dudley Mountain to the east, but could be seen above the tops of the trees surrounding the site. The balloon was also observed to have backdrop provided by the eastern slope when viewed from one of the adjacent properties, identified as Tax Map 80 - Parcel 26B, adjacent to the west side of Route 29. When viewed from another point located approximately 1-1/4 mile to the north and near the intersection of Arrowhead Valley Road and Locust Hollow Road [State Route 818], the balloon was exposed above the trees surrounding the facility site. Based on the balloon test observations and its location near the top of that lower ridgeline it is staff’s opinion that the currently proposed site does not meet the requirement for providing adequate screening of the facility in order to minimize its visibility from adjacent properties, regardless of their distance.
The Arrowhead Farm and Woods properties located directly to the south and west of the subject parcel (Tax Map 88 - Parcel 20 and Tax Map 89 - Parcel 15), are held in conservation easements, dedicated to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF). However, because of the varying topography and the amount vegetation between the protected resources it is staff’s opinion that the tallest portions of the proposed monopole would be visible from the protected resources located on these properties. Furthermore, due to its brown color and distance of approximately 116 feet from the nearest boundary line that is shared with those properties, the ground equipment serving the facility would not be visible from any of the protected resources within those easements.
3. Section 5.1.40(d)(3): The facility shall not adversely impact resources identified in the county’s open space plan.
Resources that have been identified as being potentially impacted by this request are mountains, historic sites and forests.
Mountains are designated as major open space systems that provide scenic views, naturally forested areas and wildlife habitat, and are recommended for protection in the Rural Areas. Due to the restrictions that the Zoning Ordinance places upon the amount of disturbance that can be made to install these facilities, it is staff’s opinion that approval of this facility would not greatly impact the forests on the subject parcel, or any of the neighboring properties within the area.
The Open Space Plan recommends the establishment of Agricultural and Forestal Districts (AG/FOR) for the purpose of protecting the agricultural and forestal uses on properties in the Rural Areas. AG/FOR Districts place certain controls on the location of public utility facilities to landowners who agree to limit development. A portion of Arrowhead Farm and several nearby properties on the western side of Route 29 are included in the Hardware Agricultural and Forestal District. Although the proposed facility is adjacent to these properties, the subject parcel is under separate ownership and is not subject to any of those governing agreements. Therefore, approval of this proposal would not compromise the ability of any of those properties to continually qualify for inclusion into the Agricultural/Forestal district.
Arrowhead Farm also contains a historic site, consisting of a residence and outbuildings which are included on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. Staff does not anticipate that the proposed facility would impose any adverse visual impacts upon the historic structures on that property, which are situated on the western portion of the Arrowhead property near Route 29 and separated from the site by existing, mature vegetation. This observation is supported by limited visibility of the existing monopoles.
4. Section 5.1.40(d)(4): The facility shall not be located so that it and three (3) or more existing or approved personal wireless service facilities would be within an area comprised of a circle centered anywhere on the ground having a radius of two hundred (200) feet.
There are two (2) existing personal wireless service facilities located on this parcel. The monopole serving the existing Ntelos facility that would be removed is located on the subject parcel approximately 435 feet west of the location for the currently proposed monopole. Another 95-foot tall monopole serving a Triton facility is located 142.3 feet to the west. Both of those existing facilities were approved with special use permits that allowed monopoles with top heights of not more than 6 feet above the tallest tree within 25 feet. Once the existing Ntelos facility has been removed, one more additional facility could possibly be installed on this parcel.
5. Section 5.1.40(d)(5): The maximum base diameter of the monopole shall be thirty (30) inches and the maximum diameter at the top of the monopole shall be eighteen (18) inches.
The construction plans for the proposed facility show a monopole with dimensions that comply with the width requirements for treetop monopoles serving Tier II facilities.
6. Section 5.1.40(d)(6): The top of the monopole, measured in elevation above mean sea level, shall not exceed the height approved by the commission. The approved height shall not be more than seven (7) feet taller than the tallest tree within twenty-five (25) feet of the monopole, and shall include any base, foundation or grading that raises the pole above the pre-existing natural ground elevation; provided that the height approved by the commission may be up to ten (10) feet taller than the tallest tree if the owner of the facility demonstrates to the satisfaction of the commission that there is not a material difference in the visibility of the monopole at the proposed height, rather than at a height seven (7) feet taller than the tallest tree; and there is not a material difference in adverse impacts to resources identified in the county’s open space plan caused by the monopole at the proposed height, rather than at a height seven (7) feet taller than the tallest tree. The applicant may appeal the commissioner’s denial of a modification to the board of supervisors as provided in subsection 5.1.40(d)(12).
The proposal is for a facility with a metal monopole, approximately 107.37 feet in total height and with a top height of approximately 892.17 feet Above Mean Sea Level (AMSL). This would result in a monopole that is approximately 10 feet AMSL taller in height than a nearby 100.13-foot tall Poplar tree identified on the applicant’s construction plans as tree number 36. The applicant’s representatives have submitted photo-simulations, adapted from balloon test photos, to demonstrate the possible differences in the 7-foot and 10-foot requirements to support their request for Planning Commission approval of the requested height. The test balloon that staff observed was only floated at 10 feet above the tallest tree within 25 feet as proposed in the applicant’s request. Therefore, staff cannot provide any additional comments regarding this particular request other than restating the fact that the monopole would appear to be skylighted from at least one location and would extend higher than the ridgeline trees on the surrounding the proposed site of the facility.
7. Section 5.1.40(d)(7): Each wood monopole shall be a dark brown natural wood color; each metal or concrete monopole shall be painted a brown wood color to blend into the surrounding trees. The antennas, supporting brackets, and all other equipment attached to the monopole shall be a color that closely matches that of the monopole. The ground equipment, the ground equipment cabinet, and the concrete pad shall also be a color that closely matches that of the monopole, provided that the ground equipment and the concrete pad need not be of such a color if they are enclosed within or behind an approved structure, façade or fencing that: (i) is a color that closely matches that of the monopole; (ii) is consistent with the character of the area; and (iii) makes the ground equipment and concrete pad invisible at any time of year from any other parcel or a public or private street.
In accordance with Section 5.1.40(a)(4)(d) the applicant has provided a sample paint chip and a note on the construction plan identifying the proposed flat dark brown color for the monopole, antennas and ground equipment serving this facility as Twisted Branch - Number 8696N, manufactured by Duron Paint Company.
8. Section 5.1.40(d)(8): Each wood monopole shall be constructed so that all cables, wiring and similar attachments that run vertically from the ground equipment to the antennas are placed on the pole to face the interior of the property and away from public view, as determined by the agent. Metal monopoles shall be constructed so that vertical cables, wiring and similar attachments are contained within the monopole’s structure.
The construction plans show that all vertical coaxial cables running from the ground equipment to the antennas would be contained within the metal monopole’s structure.
3. Section 704(a)(7)(b)(I)(II) of The Telecommunications Act of 1996:
The regulation of the placement, construction and modification of personal wireless facilities by any state or local government or instrumentality thereof shall not prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the provision of personal wireless services.
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 the proposed facility, the applicant is required to meet the FCC guidelines for radio frequency emissions. These requirements will adequately protect the public health and safety.
No information has been provided to demonstrate the availability, or lack thereof, of any alternative sites on other properties 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 that may be seen as unfavorable to this request:
1. Section 5.1.40(d)(2): The monopole would be skylighted from at least one vantage point near the sight, and;
2. Section 5.1.40(d)(2): The site does not offer adequate opportunities for screening a monopole at the proposed height and location.
In the event that the Planning Commission chooses to deny this application staff offers the following comment:
In order to comply with the provisions of the Telecommunication Act and with Section 5.1.40(d) of the Zoning Ordinance, the Planning Commission is required to provide the applicant with a statement regarding the basis for denial and all items that will have to be addressed to satisfy each requirement.
A - Applicant’s Request, plans and information
B - Tax and Aerial Location Maps
C - Zoning Ordinance Section 5.1.40
D - Architectural Review Board Recommendations
E - Staff’s Balloon Test Photos
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