AT&T Promises Better Service with Short Hill Tower

Representatives for telecom giant AT&T promised better cell service in northwestern Loudoun if the company is allowed to build a 125-foot tower on top of Short Hill Mountain.

With that, the company’s representatives say, will come cell network coverage for AT&T subscribers, the FirstNet network dedicated to first responders, and space on the tower to lease to other mobile providers.

The monopole proposal was first discussed publicly in 2018. After a well-attended open house in Lovettsville, the proposed tower was revised downward from 155 feet to 125 feet high with, the company’s representatives say, no lighting on top.

Attorney Greg Rapisarda, from the firm Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP, said at a virtual community meeting Jan. 27 that the reduction in height was “mostly in response to community concerns and some feedback from the county.”

“I do not think it’s going to draw anybody’s eye,” Rapisarda said. “We’ve got minimal visual impact, and that that’s also feedback we got from people that were on the ground that day at the balloon test—and that includes members of the community, too, not just our team.”

People living in the area have viewed the company’s applications with suspicion; it is the same site where, in 2016, the company attempted to build what it called a utility substation, but which local experts said looked like a data center. Under intense pressure the company withdrew its application after it had already been approved by the Loudoun County Planning Commission.

AT&T’s representatives took questions from the community during the meeting, including why there can’t instead be two towers downslope on either side of the ridgeline—pointing out Loudoun County’s comprehensive plan and zoning regulations discourage building on ridgelines—and why AT&T can’t use other towers on the mountain.

Moving the towers downslope, company representatives pointed out, would have increased environmental impacts—the proposal is on land that has already been disturbed for AT&T’s existing facility on top of the mountain, and downslope would likely put the project and its access road on protected steep slopes. AT&T engineer Guarav Behl said two towers near each other would interfere with each other.

The next nearest tower, they said, is too far away.

AT&T spokesman David D’Onofrio said at one point 84 people were tuned into the meeting.

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