AT&T Conducts Short Hill Tower Visibility Test

AT&T boosted itself nearly a half-football field into the air atop Short Hill Mountain Tuesday morning to see how far around the community it could see, and vice versa.

The telecommunications company raised a crane nearly 42 yards into the air at its 139-acre property atop the ridge, about three miles west of Lovettsville’s corporate limits, to better understand the coverage area and visual impact of its proposed 125-foot monopole. According to AT&T Spokesperson Daniel Langan, the company will share its findings with the appropriate federal, state and local stakeholders.

Makenzie Bandstra, an architectural historian with the EBI Consulting environmental, engineering and design firm, said the Virginia Department of Historic Resources recommended that the project’s Visual Area of Potential Effect be expanded to two miles and requested the crane test be done, along with photo simulations based on at least five views from different locations in the area, including two views from the Harpers Ferry Battlefield study area.

A view of AT&T’s 125-foot crane test on Tuesday. [Courtesy of Amy Marasco]

According to theQ&A page on the AT&T website, the company needs the tower “to enhance voice and mobile broadband coverage for our customers and prepare for future technology such as 5G, which is significantly faster and more capable than today’s networks.”

A tower of such height is needed because the location is a “macro site,” which means the tower would cover “large geographic areas, especially in rural situations, with relatively high capacity” by using lower range spectrum frequencies that travel farther than those which smaller towers feature.

A larger, but shorter proposal three years ago sparked mass outcry from residents nearby.

That proposal included the construction of a 160,000-square-foot aboveground facility with a 35-foot-high monopole on the ridge. Many residents felt that design resembled a data center and the county Communications Commission unanimously passed a statement finding “no evidence” that the facility would improve communications service in Loudoun, although AT&T claimed it would have.

In June 2016, AT&T withdrewthat application and the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to overturn the permit that the Planning Commission previously granted the AT&T.

Two years later, the telecommunications company applied for county permission to build a 2,500-square-foot equipment compound surrounded by a 6-foot-tall fence on the same spot with a 155-foot tower—a height AT&T at the time claimed wasthe lowest it could build and still eliminate existing wireless coverage gaps, according to paperwork filed with a request to meet with county planners.

To test the visuals, AT&T in April 2018 sent balloons into the air but was forced to stop the test before the balloons reached their maximum height because of wind.

Langan said that AT&T lowered the proposedheight of the tower by 30 feet after talks with community leaders and residents. The company has not yet submitted a formal application with the county to construct it.

Once it does, the county Planning Commission will review the application before sending it to the Board of Supervisors to schedule a public hearing and later vote to approve or deny it.

pszabo@loudounnow.com

8 thoughts on “AT&T Conducts Short Hill Tower Visibility Test

  • 2019-07-25 at 4:33 pm
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    AT&T nothing but a sneaky company trying to pull a fast one. As soon as I heard about their bait and switch plans, I dumped AT&T service as did a number of friends and family. If this comes for a vote, do the right thing and vote to deny.

  • 2019-07-25 at 5:17 pm
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    Build it! Western Loudoun residents need broadband access. Hard to believe that the “datacenter county” has worse internet than a 3rd world country.

    • 2019-07-29 at 12:26 pm
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      Agree that western Loudoun needs broadband access but this proposed monopole won’t provide it. Or any other local service. Their promises otherwise are recycled from the last time when they were proven to not be true. They haven’t applied yet so we’ll see if things are any different this time, but don’t count on it.

  • 2019-07-25 at 6:43 pm
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    Before approving, the county needs to ask ATT what ATT will do to provide affordable broadband to western Loudoun.

    • 2019-07-29 at 12:42 pm
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      For what it’s worth, according to AT&T’s PR consultant Minchew’s firm Walsh Colucci is not involved in this project. They were involved with the data center project in 2016 though, and in some pretty shady ways for a firm with a then-Delegate for a partner. I understand land-use lawyers have to do land-use law, but not like that if they want to have a good reputation.

  • 2019-07-29 at 5:07 pm
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    It’s past time to build more cell towers. I hope the feds take most local control of cell tower placement away. Just like the courts did with satellite dishes. HOA were banning them and since they have a federal license the courts agreed localities and HOA’s cannot regulate.

    I don’t want to see towers every mile but better a thin pole in the sky those stupid looking tree cell towers or worse yet no cell service in the internet capitol of the world.

    When your wife or daughter is driving at night in western Loudoun and breaks down, no cell service so they are stranded until someone finds them. Stop complaining about something so beneficial. You sound like the candle makers complaining about the electric light.

    • 2019-07-30 at 10:07 am
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      Or they can just site towers downslope off the ridge line like the county rules say to do and we can have good coverage and good views

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