AT&T representatives defended preliminary plans for a 155-foot cell tower on top of Short Hill Mountain at an open-house meeting at the Lovettsville Game Protective Association Thursday, May 10.
Representatives from law and engineering firms representing the company faced questions from people living around the mountain, including whether the tower would actually serve private citizens and everyday customers.
“If you have AT&T, this tower is going to be for you,” said attorney Greg Rapisarda, from the firm Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP. “…It’s voice, it’s data, it’s being able to stream things, things like that.”
AT&T’s representatives at the meeting could not provide the number of AT&T customers in the area. Unlike the company’s controversial previous application to build a 35-foot-high, 160,000-square-foot aboveground facility on top of its already-existing underground facility on that site, no AT&T employees were at the public meeting.
Rapisarda said the 155-foot proposed height of the tower is a starting point, which AT&T’s engineers calculated to be the ideal height for maximizing the tower’s coverage.
“Then there’s balance,” Rapisarda said. “There’s balance where I come in with the zoning law, there’s balance where you all come in with the community.” He said from there the company would typically consider reducing the height or making the tower less noticeable, balancing that against the tower’s coverage.
Rapisarda declined to provide copies of the coverage maps on display at the meeting, saying they are proprietary. Although access to the site is restricted to the public, he said other cell carriers would be allowed to mount their antennae to the proposed tower.
The company has not yet filed a formal application to build the monopole, which will require two public hearings, along 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.”
Many Loudouners at the meeting, which was at times heated, left unsatisfied. “I don’t know how you’re going to convince us that it really belongs on the ridgeline,” remarked one.
A handout at the meeting said the tower will “enhance voice and mobile broadband coverage and prepare the future technology such as 5G.” The company is keeping a running list of frequently asked questions at https://engage.att.com/loudoun-county/faq/.
“We’re not hiding the ball here,” Rapisarda said. “This is a public meeting to do this.”