STAFF PERSON:                            Stephen B. Waller, AICP               

PLANNING COMMISSION:                   NovemBER 15, 2005

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:                  DECEMBER 14, 2005

 

SP 05-023 Ford, Linda (Alltel)

PROPERTY OWNER: Linda K. Ford Revocable Trust

APPLICANT: Alltel Communications of Virginia, Inc.

 

Applicant’s Proposal:

 

The applicant, Alltel Communications of Virginia Inc., has submitted an application for a special use permit to allow the replacement of a utility pole within a Virginia Power easement, on property owned by the Linda K. Ford revocable Trust (Attachment A).  This proposal would allow the co-location of a sector containing three (3) flush-mounted panel antennas that are approximately 4 feet long and 11 inches wide.  The proposed mounting structure for this facility is a new 53-foot tall, wooden utility pole that would replace an existing 43-foot tall pole located in a power line easement (Attachment A).  The property, described as Tax Map 59 - Parcel 80C, contains 155.45 acres and is zoned Rural Areas (RA) and Entrance Corridor (EC).  This site lies in the Samuel Miller District and is adjacent to the eastbound lane of Ivy Road [U.S Route 250 West], across from the intersection with Broomley Road [State Route 5934] and the Christian Aid Mission (Attachment B).  The Comprehensive Plan designates this property as Rural Areas in Rural Area 3.  General usages for the Rural Areas are agriculture and forestal activities, with a recommended density of 0.5 dwelling units per acre.

 

Petition:

 

The applicant is requesting approval of the proposed special use permit in accordance with Section 10.2.2(48) of the Zoning Ordinance, which allows for Tier III personal wireless service facilities in the Rural Areas zoning district. 

 

Character of the Area:

 

The existing 43-foot tall utility is located on an incline just south of the right-of-way for State Route 250 (Attachment C).  There are two other identical poles within very close proximity to the pole that would be replaced and a large utility box is located just to the north, between this site and the road. The land surrounding this site and other adjacent properties on the southern side of Route 250 is all zoned Rural Areas and is characterized by a combination of large wooded areas and rolling pastures with smaller groupings of trees scattered about them.  The adjacent properties on the north side of the road are commercially zoned and include such uses as a retail nursery with greenhouses, an automobile dealership and offices for Christian Aid Mission.

 

In addition to the utility poles in the power line that is subject to this request, there are other tall structures located closer to the right-of-way and more readily visible than the pole that is proposed to be replaced.  This includes the telephone poles that are closer to the road on the northern side of Route 250 and the traffic light poles at the intersection with Broomley Road.  The nearest dwelling is located nearly 650 feet to the southeast of this facility site on a parcel that shares common ownership with the subject property.  The nearest dwelling on property that does not have the same ownership as this parcel is approximately 800 feet away to the north.

 

Planning and Zoning History:

 

Staff has identified no previous Planning or Zoning actions on this parcel.

 

Comprehensive Plan:

 

All of the antennas and equipment for the proposed facility would be located on a utility pole within a power line easement, and the gravel road providing vehicular access to this site access would be constructed over a pasture that is already clear of trees.  Therefore, because this proposal does not necessitate any significant disturbance, staff’s review for compliance with the Comprehensive Plan’s guidelines for wireless facilities is focused mainly on the possible visual impacts upon locations surrounding the site.  The Personal Wireless Service Facilities Policy is the component of the Comprehensive Plan that provides specific guidelines for the siting and review of personal wireless service facilities.  Both the Open Space Plan and Chapter 2 of the Comprehensive Plan, entitled Natural Resources and Cultural Assets, provide staff with guidance for managing the County’s natural, scenic and historic resources, and for the preservation and conservation of those resources in order to protect the environment for future use.

 

Personal Wireless Service Facilities Policy:

 

The wireless policy recommends the three tiered approach for reviewing personal wireless facilities which was adopted as Section 5.1.40 of the Zoning Ordinance.  Tier I consists of facilities that can either be located within existing structures or architecturally compatible additions that conceal them from outside views, or flush-mounted onto a structure in order to reduce the possible visual impacts that could be caused by increasing the bulk of those structures. Tier II of the policy encourages the utilization of new facilities with flush-mounted antennas attached to treetop structures that are designed to blend into the natural surroundings of wooded areas.  Tier III allows the implementation of facilities that can’t be designed to meet the criteria set forth in either of the first two tiers.

 

In this case a special use permit is required to allow the replacement of the existing pole with a similar one that would be 10 feet taller so the proposed flush-mounted panel antennas can be installed at this site.  The applicant’s construction plans and profiles for this proposal show that the pole would have a base diameter of 24 inches and a top diameter of 14 inches, providing a narrower profile than the maximum allowed for treetop monopoles under the by-right, Tier II criteria.

 

Open Space Plan and Chapter 2:

 

The Open Space Plan Concept Map provides an inventory that identifies the areas where various critical resources are present throughout the County.  The only resource that has been identified as potentially being impacted by this request is the entrance corridor for Route 250.  The intent of the Entrance Corridor Overlay District as stated in the Zoning Ordinance is, in part, “to implement the Comprehensive plan goal of protecting the county’s natural, scenic and historic, architectural and cultural resources, including preservation of natural and scenic resources as the same may serve this purpose,” and, “to protect the County’s attractiveness to tourists and other visitors; to sustain and enhance the economic benefits accruing to the County from tourism.” 

 

The Architectural Review Board has reviewed this particular proposal for consistency with the design guidelines that are applied to various types of development within the entrance corridors (Attachment D).  Because the visibility of this of this site is limited to a very small distance area while traveling in either direction on Route 250, the Architectural Review Board has recommended approval with conditions requiring that the access road and ground equipment serving this site be screened from views to the north.  Therefore, it is staff’s opinion that the proposed facility would not impose significant visual impacts upon the entrance corridor.

 

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.

 

STAFF COMMENT:

 

Staff will address the issues of this request in four sections:

 

1.                                          Section 31.2.4.1 of the Zoning Ordinance; and,

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

 

1.         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 site of the proposed facility is located within a power line on a slope that rises above the shoulder on the south side of Route 250.  While approaching this site from the east, a row of tall trees adjacent to the right-of-way margin obscures the existing utility poles until the tree line breaks approximately 1/10-mile east of the site.  The treeline then continues on the opposite side of the entrance to the subject parcel, providing a similar screening effect when the site is approached from the west.  From this vantage the location of the existing pole is not visible until the clearing is reached just west of where the entrance to this site and Broomley Road intersect with Route 250.  The only other locations from where views of the existing pole had unobstructed visibility are facing the site while heading south from Broomley Road and in the Christian Aid Mission’s parking lot.  Therefore, it is staff’s opinion that this proposal would not be of any substantial detriment to adjacent properties.

 

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

 

Visibility of this facility would be obscured from most nearby dwellings due to a combination of the topography and vegetation between it and the residential and rural properties that don’t have frontage on Route 250.  However, no tree removal or other disturbance is necessary at this site because the utility line is already in place and the access will be provided over a non-vegetated pasture. 

 

Although the proposed replacement pole is taller, staff notes the presence of another existing power pole to remain just east of the site that is fitted with much larger attachments than the proposed flush-mounted antennas.   In addition to the poles in the power line easement, several other tall utilities are within the lines of sight of the proposed facility.  This includes telephone poles serving properties across the street, on the north side of Route 250 and poles holding the traffic lights at the intersection with the subject property and Broomley Road 

 

Once this facility has been constructed and is fully operational, staff does not anticipate the scheduled site visits to create a significant increase in activity or traffic within the area.  As in most cases, the proposed facility would be unmanned and it is anticipated that Alltel’s service personnel would only need to travel to the site once a month for routine maintenance visits.  Therefore, staff does not expect a use necessitating such infrequent site visits would intensify any activity or traffic within the area by a noticeable level.

 

Based on the information provided above, staff finds that the approval of this proposal would not result in changing the character to the district.

 

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

 

Staff has reviewed this request with consideration for the purpose and intent of the Zoning Ordinance as stated in Section 1.4.

 

Section 1.4.3 states, “To facilitate the creation of a convenient, attractive and harmonious community,” as an intent of the Ordinance.  As evidenced by the expanded and rapid increase in their use, mobile telephones clearly provide a public service.  The establishment of personal wireless service facilities expands the availability of communications opportunities and convenience for users of wireless phone technology.  In the event of emergencies, access to the increased communication the opportunities provide wireless facilities can be consistent with the accepted principles of public health, safety and general welfare.  Although wireless facilities are not often credited for enhancing the visual appearance of surrounding areas, the guidelines of the wireless policy are intended to ensure that the facilities are not responsible for intruding upon the important scenic resources that promote the attractiveness of the community.

 

Section 1.5 (Relation to Environment) states in part 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 use…; and preservation of flood plains, the preservation of agricultural and forestal land, the conservation of properties and their values and the encouragement of the most appropriate use of land throughout the County.”  The County’s policies and regulations set a preference for wireless facilities that are designed to stealthily blend in with the existing surroundings or on existing buildings and structures.  This can be effective for ensuring that new facilities are not located in a manner that requires an extensive amount of environmental degradation or imposes significant visual impacts. 

 

Last year, the applicant originally submitted a request proposing the construction of an 85-foot tall flag pole on the opposite side of the road, in the front lawn of the Christian Aid Mission site.  However, staff did not support that request because a flag pole at that height would have been overwhelming and uncharacteristic for this area.  Although this co-location can only be accommodated by replacing an existing structure, the replacement structure is consistent with other structures within the power line easement and no significant disturbance is required. Therefore, it is staff’s opinion that the approval of this proposal complies sufficiently with the purpose and intent of the Zoning Ordinance.

 

            with the uses permitted by right in the district,

 

Staff has identified no evidence to demonstrate that attachment of the proposed pole replacement and antenna attachments would restrict or otherwise adversely affect any of the established uses or other by-right uses allowed on this site or on any of the nearby properties and zoning districts.

 

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

 

Section 5.1.12.a of the Zoning Ordinance contains regulations for locating public utility structures in a manner which “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.”  Staff has attempted to address the concerns for possible impacts upon neighboring properties in the area with the analysis provided in this staff report and with the recommended conditions of approval.  The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) regulations address the most significant concerns for public health and safety regarding radio-frequency emission from wireless telecommunications facilities.

 

Section 5.1.40 of the Zoning Ordinance was adopted to implement the three-tiered review criteria as recommended by the Personal Wireless Service Facilities Policy.  Although, co-locations can be allowed by right under the criteria for Tier I personal wireless service facilities, this proposal is a Tier III co-location because a new mounting structure is proposed to replace an existing structure that could not hold the proposed antennas.  However, the work required to replace the pole and attach of antennas does not require any expansion outside of the power line easement.  Furthermore, the Zoning Ordinance does not preclude the use of replacement poles or extensions on existing structures for Tier III proposals, provided that there are no significant visual impacts expected.  Therefore, the minimal amount of visual impacts and lack of environmental disturbance that would result from this proposal is considered to be consistent with the regulations governing personal wireless service facilities.

 

2.         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.

 

Neither the Comprehensive Plan nor the Zoning Ordinance prohibits the provision of personal wireless services.  However, both do implement policies and regulations for the siting and design of these facilities.  Although it has not been determined whether or not the denial of this application would have the effect of prohibiting the provision of personal wireless communication services, staff recognizes that this is the second proposal that the applicant has submitted for the purpose of meeting the service objectives that would be covered by the proposed facility at this site.

 

SUMMARY

 

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

 

1.                  The approval of this facility would not restrict any of the uses that are permitted by right on adjacent properties;

2.                  The visibility of the existing power pole is limited to a relatively small area along State Route 250 and is obscured from most of the nearby rural and residential properties surrounding this site;

3.                  There are several utility poles of various types located within close proximity to this site;

4.                  This proposal represents a co-location opportunity within an existing utility easement and should have no discernible impact upon any important resources; and,

5.                  The proposed flush-mounted antennas would not be the largest or most visible attachments on poles within this easement.

 

The following factors are relevant to this consideration:

 

1.                  The first application from Alltel for a facility providing coverage to this specific area was withdrawn in response to staff’s concerns with the visual impacts upon the entrance corridor and other surrounding properties.  

 


 

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

 

Staff has reviewed this request for compliance with the provisions set forth in Section 31.2.4.1 of the Zoning Ordinance and all other policies and regulations pertaining to personal wireless service facilities and recommends approval with conditions. 

 

Recommended conditions of approval:

 

1.                  The replacement power pole, antennas and ground equipment shall all be sized, located, installed and maintained in general accord with the construction plans, structure elevations and schematic drawings, entitled “Alltel - Linda Ford Bucks”, last revised November 7, 2005 and initialed SBW on November 8, 2005.

2.                  Prior to the issuance of a building permit, the applicant shall submit a final revised set of site drawings construction of the facility.  Planning staff shall review the revised plans to ensure that all appropriate conditions of this special use permit have been addressed.

3.                  The top of the replacement pole antenna shall not exceed a height of 53 feet above ground and elevation of 731 feet above sea level.

4.                  The replacement pole shall be of a color and finish that is consistent with the other existing poles that are to remain within the power line easement, and the antennas shall be painted to match that color and flat finish as well.

5.                  The ground equipment cabinets shall be painted a flat, natural dark brown color and/or screened in accordance with the requirements of the Architectural Review Board.

6.                  The gravel access road shall be screened from State Route 250 in accordance with the requirements of the Architectural Review Board.

7.                  The 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 agent determines at any time that surety is required to guarantee that the facility will be removed as required, the agent may require that the parcel owner or the owner of the facility submit a certified check, a bond with surety, or a letter of credit, in an amount sufficient for, and conditioned upon, the removal of the facility. The type and form of the surety guarantee shall be to the satisfaction of the agent and the county attorney. In determining whether surety should be required, the agent shall consider the following: (i) the annual report states that the tower or pole is no longer being used for personal wireless service facilities; (ii) the annual report was not filed; (iii) there is a change in technology that makes it likely that tower or pole will be unnecessary in the near future; (iv) the permittee fails to comply with applicable regulations or conditions; (v) the permittee fails to timely remove another tower or pole within the county; and (vi) whenever otherwise deemed necessary by the agent.

8.                  The owner of the facility shall submit a report to the agent by no earlier than May or and no later than July 1 of each year. The report shall identify each user of the existing structure, and include a drawing, photograph or other illustration identifying which equipment is owned and/or operated by each personal wireless service provider. Multiple users on a single tower or other mounting structure may submit a single report, provided that the report includes a statement signed by a representative from each user acquiescing in the report.

9.                  Certification by a registered surveyor stating the height of the replacement pole, measured both in feet above ground level and in elevation above mean sea level, and using the benchmarks or reference datum identified on the construction plan shall be submitted to the agent after installation of the monopole is completed and prior to issuance of a certificate of occupancy.

 

 

ATTACHMENTS:

 

A -       Special use permit application, construction plans and supporting information

B -       Parcel and location maps

C -       Photos of the existing utility structures and areas surrounding the facility site

D -       Architectural Review Board staff report

Return to PC actions letter