Almost two years after telecom giant AT&T withdrew an application to build a large industrial facility atop Short Hill Mountain under heavy public protest, the company has returned with a much smaller but taller application.
AT&T has applied for permission to build a 150-foot telecommunications tower atop Short Hill Mountain on the same spot, with a 50-foot-by-50-foot equipment compound. In paperwork filed with a request to meet with county planners, the company’s representatives say the height “was determined to be the lowest possible height that would eliminate current coverage gaps” in wireless service. The tower would also have room for two other carriers to attach below AT&T’s antenna.
“The location is ideal in both setting and background as the monopole will blend into the surroundings and minimize the visual impact,” the application reads. “Given the size of the property and the location of the monopole, there will be no impact from noise, light, glare, odor or any other emissions. Because an AT&T facility already exists on the property, it is adequately served by public utilities and existing roads, and no additional public infrastructure is necessary.”
AT&T spokesman Dan Langan said the company hopes to get the necessary approvals and have the site online in about a year. And he said the company has no other plans on the site at the moment.
“We are focused on building this new cell site,” Langan wrote in an email. “We continue routine maintenance, such as landscaping and planting new trees. In fact, we’ve spent around $500,000 on new native trees and plants, and we plan to plant even more this spring. Additionally, over the past few years we have worked with Loudoun County Arborist and landscape architects to remove several dead, damaged and invasive trees.”
AT&T brought on a firestorm of protest in 2016 with its proposal for a 35-foot-high, 160,000-square-foot aboveground facility on top of its already-existing underground facility on that side overlooking Lovettsville. Although the company argued that facility would improve communications service in Loudoun, the county Communications Commission unanimously passed a statement finding “no evidence” that was the case. Critics of the application said it strongly resembles a data center, and one of the leading members of the opposition to the project was recognized for his role in fighting it.
“My concern about this from the outset is the height of it,” said Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin). “I don’t understand why it has to be that tall, so I’m going to have get more information about it.”
AT&T owns more than 160 acres on Short Hill. In the county’s comprehensive plan, most of that property is labelled as steep slopes and all of it in the Mountainside Overlay District.