Albemarle County Planning Commission

October 2, 2007


The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a work session, meeting and a public hearing on Tuesday, October 2, 2007, at 5:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Lane Auditorium, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia.


Members attending were Calvin Morris, Vice-Chairman; Marcia Joseph, Chairman; Duane Zobrist, Bill Edgerton; Eric Strucko; Pete Craddock and Jon Cannon. Pete Craddock arrived at 6:00 p.m.  Eric Strucko arrived at 6:05 p.m. Julia Monteith, AICP, Senior Land Use Planner for the University of Virginia was present. 


Other officials present were Rebecca Ragsdale, Senior Planner; Elaine Echols, Principal Planner; David Benish, Chief of Planning; Gerald Gatabu, Senior Planner; Greg Kamptner, Deputy County Attorney; Summer Frederick, Planner; Joan McDowell, Principal Planner; Allan Schuck, Senior Engineer; Megan Yaniglos, Senior Planner; John Shepherd, Chief of Current Development; Amelia McCulley, Director of Zoning & Current Development/Zoning Administrator and Scott Clark, Senior Planner.


Call to Order and Establish Quorum:


Ms. Joseph called the meeting to order at 5:00 p.m. and established a quorum.


SDP-2007-00025 CV 340A Brownsville / Ramsey Property

Proposal to install a Tier II personal wireless service treetop facility.  The proposed facility consists of a 73-foot tall monopole, painted brown with an approximate top elevation of 735 feet, measured above sea level (ASL).  The proposed monopole will be 10 feet higher than the identified reference tree located 24 feet east of the tower site.  The lease area for the proposed facility is located on property described as Tax Map 56, Parcel 35B, which is approximately 6.82 acres and is zoned R-1, Residential and EC, Entrance Corridor.  The site is located north of Rockfish Gap Turnpike [Rte. 250] just east its intersection with Shepard Run [Private] in the White Hall Magisterial District.  The Comprehensive Plan identifies part of this property as CT-2, Development Area Reserve within the Crozet Community. (Gerald Gatabu)


Mr. Gatabu summarized the staff report.  (See staff report.)


·         Proposal to install a Tier II personal wireless service treetop facility.  The proposed facility consists of a 67.4 foot tall monopole measured above ground level (AGL), painted brown with an approximate top elevation of 730.7 feet, measured above mean sea level (AMSL). 

·         This went before the Architectural Review Board on August 20, 2007 and received approval. 

·         The applicant is requesting the steel monopole to be 10’ above the tallest tree within 25’.  There will be a concrete equipment pad.  There are 3 antennas each measuring approximately (51.6” X 12.1” X 4.5”).  Supporting ground equipment will be contained within a proposed 12’ by 16’ Cingular concrete equipment pad.

·         There is a 20’ access easement.  Staff has photographs of the balloon test.

·         Staff recommends approval of this facility at (7) seven feet above the tallest tree.  The height approved by the Planning 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 10 feet above the tallest tree.

·         Staff received 2 letters from adjacent property owners.  One letter was from Mr. Baldwin, which was included in the staff report.  Another letter was received yesterday from Mr. Custous.  There are several neighbors that are opposed to a tower being located on this site.


Ms. Joseph asked if there were any questions for staff.  She asked to see photographs of the dead pine trees.


Mr. Gatabu presented photographs of the balloon test for review by the Commission.  He noted that there were several locations from Shepherd’s Run where the balloon was visible.  There are some trees that are proposed to be removed.  The issue concerning the dying trees he would leave that to the applicant to justify.  It would be great if the applicant could provide an arborist report.


Ms. Joseph opened the public hearing and invited the applicant to address the Commission.


Dale Finnochi, with Cingular Wireless, spoke for the request.  The Ramseys own two adjoining properties.  The request has been to the Architectural Review Board and received the issuance of a Certificate of Appropriateness with some conditions.  All of the plan revisions requested by the ARB will be made.  Staff can confirm that the revisions have been made through site plan review.  They feel that they have found an ideal site on the Ramsey property.  The proposed monopole is an extremely short one of 67.4’.  There is no material difference between the 10’ and 7’ height above the referenced tree or the tallest tree within 25’.  It also permits a pole that is 10’ higher than the referenced tree if there is no material difference in visibility between 10’ and 7’ with respect to this particular site.  Staff has confirmed that an extra 3’ would not make any material difference in their view. When a brown monopole is viewed through trees from 300’ away from Route 250 no objective person could concern a material difference between a 67’ tower and a 64’ tower.  The lease area and the equipment are similar to the one on the Wild Turkey site.  With respect to the 4 trees, there are 4 shrub pines that are proposed to be removed.  They have been reviewed and considered by Dave Rosin, an arborist with the Van Yahres Firm, and he will be rendering a report with respect to those 4 trees.  They are either dead, dying or leaning.  Therefore, they respectfully request the Commission’s approval with respect to this site.  They do have a recorded access easement that will provide access to the site.  With respect to the access easement, in 1998 James H. Ramsey and his wife Jean T. Ramsey did a family subdivision.  They conveyed a part of their property referred to as Lot A and  Lot B to their sons and retained a parcel “X” which they combined with another parcel.  The Ramsey’s have a total of 8.96 acres.  In that 1996 deed it is stated that all 3 of the parcels are subject to the access easements that are set forth in a 1996 deed.  They have the 1996 deed, which is a deed from Agnes A. Baldwin on September 13, 1996 to James H. Ramsey, which is the property on which the facility will be located.  That deed conveyed 13.96 acres.  The second page of that deed states this conveyance is made subject to all easements, restrictions, reservations and conditions contained in duly recorded deeds and plats.  Attached to this 1996 deed is a plat, which establishes the access easement 40’ in width that is now, known as Shepherd’s Run.  This easement serves as the access for all of the Ramsey parcels.  The access easement as set forth in the 1996 deed is not restricted in any way with respect to time or use.  Therefore, any invitees of any of the property owners that are served by this access easement are allowed to use it for their purposes.  That addresses the access easement question.  The only other question was with respect to the trees.  An arborist report will be submitted with respect to the trees.


Ms. Joseph asked if there were any questions for the applicant.


Mr. Strucko asked how close this facility to the Wild Turkey/Cross property facility is. 


Mr. Finnochi replied that it was more than 1 mile. 


Ms. Joseph invited public comment.  There being none, the public hearing was closed and the matter before the Commission.


Mr. Strucko said that he had reservations regarding this request because of the objections from 2 adjacent property owners.  The site will be visible from the adjacent parcels for at least one-half of the year.  Given there is another facility about a mile down the road he was not as supportive of this project.


Mr. Zobrist asked that the applicant explain technically why they need 2 facilities that close.


Mr. Ramsey pointed out that the Baldwin property was more than 400’ away.  The Albert’s property was more than 500’ away from that site. With the leaves on the trees they will not be able to see the sites.   


Mr. Finnochi replied that these 2 sites are going to provide the coverage that is lacking along the 250 Corridor for the parcels and schools that Route 250 services.  There is a severe degradation of coverage in this area. To bring the coverage up to where they need it along Route 250 to provide adequate coverage is why these 2 sites were selected.  A mile apart is a far enough distance when they are dealing with heights of this size.  One site is actually beneath the height of the signature tree.  In this area the trees, although they are dense, are not very tall.  That is why the proposal here is at a much lower height.  Of importance, too, are the power lines that go up there as well.   The distance is needed and 1 mile is not too close.  One site is not going to provide the coverage that the 2 sites would.  Of course, they would not propose 2 sites if they only needed 1.  The equipment for 1 site is upwards in costs of a million dollars.  They would only propose a site in an area where they deem it to be very significant.  He assured the Commission that they would not ask for 2 sites without a lot of pre-thought.  A lot of engineering goes into it.  If the engineers decide that they need both of the sites, then they are certainly needed.  These distances were specifically selected to provide the coverage that they need on 250.


Mr. Edgerton asked staff to display the photographs of the balloon test and show where the approximate location of where the tower would be.


Mr. Gatobu presented the photographs of the balloon test and pointed out that location of the tower.


Mr. Edgerton noted that Ramsey’s house would be more impacted than Mr. Albert’s house.  He asked staff to point out the location of Mr. Baldwin’s house.


Mr. Gatobu pointed out Mr. Baldwin’s house on the photograph.  Mr. Baldwin’s main concern is the access.  The access to the site is 20’ off the road and they won’t have to travel down Shepherd’s Run.  There are areas where the site will be seen.


Mr. Strucko said that he could not support this request because it was a commercial venture in a residential area with several objections from the adjoining land owners.


Mr. Zobrist disclosed that he was an AT&T wireless user.  He lived in Crozet and had a significant interest in the elimination of that dead spot.  But, he felt that he could vote objectively on this.  He felt that the greater good for the community prevails over the concerns of the two adjoining neighbors.


Motion:  Mr. Zobrist, Mr. Morris seconded, to approve SDP-2007-00025, CV 340A Brownsville/Ramsey Property as presented with the height of the pole to be as recommended by staff.


1.  The top of the monopole shall be not more than seven (7) feet above the tallest tree located within 25 feet of the monopole.


The motion passed by a vote of 6:1.  (Mr. Strucko voted nay.) 


Ms. Joseph stated that SDP-2007-00025, CV 340A Brownsville/Ramsey Property, was approved.


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