Short Hill Tower Test Delayed by Winds

AT&T’s test Thursday to evaluate the visual impact of a proposed 155-foot tower on its property on top of Short Hill mountain overlooking Lovettsville was cancelled because of high winds.

According to AT&T spokesman Dan Langan, the test will likely be rescheduled for next week.

Nonetheless, many of the same community activists around the mountain who two years ago fought AT&T’s proposal to construct a 35-foot-high, 160,000-square-foot aboveground building on the same site were on alert, taking photos of the mountain from different spots in and near Lovettsville and sharing them on Facebook yesterday.

The test balloons never reached the full 155-foot height of the proposed tower.

The company has not yet filed a formal application to build the monopole, which will require two public hearings, with a commission permit from the Planning Commission and a special exception permit from the Board of Supervisors. The proposed location indicated on pre-application paperwork appears to violate a Loudoun zoning ordinance that monopoles “shall not be located along ridge lines, but downslope from the top of ridge lines, to protect views of the Catoctin, Bull Run, Hogback, Short Hill, and Blue Ridge Mountains.”

Loudoun zoning requires that the monopole “shall be compatible with development in the vicinity with regards to the setting, color, lighting, topography, materials and architecture. In addition, the facility shall be located in the interior of the property and areas of existing vegetation, if applicable, shall be used to screen the facility.”

As part of its application, AT&T must submit graphics depicting the area in which the monopole would provide service, and simulations of its visual impact on the area with plans to mitigate that impact.

Representatives from the company held a pre-application conference on the proposal with county staff members on April 10. Those meetings are not open to the public, but according to a record of the meeting, a representative from AT&T met with staff members from the health, planning and zoning, and building and development departments, along with Planning Commissioner Eugene Scheel (Catoctin) and staff from the offices of County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and supervisors Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin), Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), and Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling).

In paperwork requesting the pre-application conference, the company’s representatives wrote the 155-foot height “was determined to be the lowest possible height that would eliminate current coverage gaps” in wireless service.

“The location is ideal in both setting and background as the monopole will blend into the surroundings and minimize the visual impact,” the filing 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 brought on a firestorm of protest in with its proposal for a large aboveground facility on top of its already-existing underground facility in 2016. 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 caseCritics 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.

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 is within the Mountainside Overlay District, which restricts development.

A view of the attempted balloon test at AT&T’s site on top of Short Hill Mountain from Mountain Road on the eastern side of the mountain. The balloons did not reach the tower’s full intended height of 155 feet. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

This article was updated Friday, April 27 at 3:28 p.m. to correct an error regarding the record of the pre-application conference.

One thought on “Short Hill Tower Test Delayed by Winds

  • 2018-04-27 at 7:35 pm

    In your earlier article, you call this a “cell site”, but nowhere in the preapplication paperwork do they use that term, rather it is a 155’ monopole that is needed to cover the gaps in their wireless coverage. It is worth noting that the company looking to do this is AT&T of Virginia and not AT&T Mobile, or AT&T Wireless who normally apply for cell tower permits. I understand AT&T of Virginia mainly does business with government clients. They elude to being able to provide better cell or internet coverage which is desparetly needed, but never come and say that. They used the same informational slight of hand with their Data Center proposal.

    The article says they will need a special exception, however the ordinance says even special exceptions are subject ridgeline restrictions. So wouldn’t the BOD have to change ordinance? Or would they grant a special exception to the special exception?

    There are 3 towers on the ridgelines in Loudoun County—all predate the ridgeline restrictions. One is less than 2 miles away and is 100 feet taller. Its the same one the County pays nearly $200k a year to hang the County’s public safety antenna on. It seems to me that location could provide AT&T of Virginia a more than suitable location for whatever they want to hang on the proposed monopole.

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