The School Board on Tuesday gave the go-ahead to Milestone Development to seek county permission to build a telecommunications tower on its Mercer Park property east of Middleburg.
The school division owns the 99-acre property and leases a portion to the county parks department for sports fields.
Milestone last year entered a master license agreement with the division to identify school prosperities that would be suitable for cell towers. Earlier this year, the School Board approved a request to build one at Rock Ridge High School. Another proposal for the Stone Bridge High School campus has been withdrawn.
The Mercer Park tower plans have drawn opposition from neighbors and the Middleburg Town Council.
Mayor Trowbridge M. Littleton wrote in a May 25 letter that it was important that the tower be sited and designed to minimize its visual impacts.
“We fully understand the need for connectivity and access to good infrastructure, but it must always be tempered in a way which balances the services it provides with the adverse effects it has on those living in that community,” Littleton wrote. “One of the key elements that makes Middleburg, and the Blue Ridge District a welcoming and unique destination is that we have not, to this point, littered our rural character with cell towers. The community fears this is the beginning of a dangerous trend. Change always comes, but it is how we manage that change which will define our future.”
Leslee King (Broad Run), who chairs the board’s Finance and Operations Committee that reviewed the request, stressed that the School Board’s approval is just the beginning of a county review process that will include public meetings with the applicants and public hearings by the county government. She said Milestone, working with AT&T, already has determined the tower’s proposed 185-foot height could be reduced by 30 feet and still meet coverage requirements.
Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) said the tower, however ultimately designed, should fix “one of the biggest black holes for cellular service in Loudoun County.”
Following the School Board’s unanimous vote of approval, Milestone’s next step is to submit an application with the county.