Bell Backs AT&T Short Hill Tower Plan, Threatens State Action

State Sen. John J. Bell (D-13) has taken the unusual step of dipping into a local government decision, writing to the Loudoun Board of Supervisors to urge support for AT&T’s controversial proposal to put a cell tower atop Short Hill Mountain.

He added in a follow up interview that if the county supervisors do not approve the telecom giant’s application, the General Assembly may step in and take it out of their hands.

AT&T is seeking to build a 125-foot-high tower at its secretive facility on top of the mountain, which company representatives say would improve AT&T wireless service in the area, provide space for other cell phone and wireless broadband carriers, and expand FirstNet, a separate wireless network dedicated to first responders. The application has faced constant resistance from residents nearby along with conservation and heritage organizations, and county planners. The Planning Commission have advised county supervisors against approving it.

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for a robust broadband network that can help students learn; employees work from home; and small, family-owned businesses—from wineries and restaurants to local farms and home-based businesses—grow, prosper and, in some cases, survive,” Bell wrote to county supervisors in July. “Additionally, this new site will include FirstNet technology, which will allow Loudoun County first responders to have vital coverage in this area when in emergency calls.”

Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) wrote back to indicate he would continue his opposition to AT&T’s application, pointing out county planners and the Planning Commission have consistently recommended denial of the application. He also pointed out it is contrary to county policy protecting ridgelines.

“We have also heard from the community who have spoken out strongly against this application,” Buffington wrote. “Specifically, we have received input in opposition to the application from Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area Association, Old Dominion Land Conservancy, the Loudoun County Heritage Commission, and countless community residents and business owners who strongly oppose the application.”

Reached for comment, Bell said he was prompted to send the letter after interactions with the fire department and first responders. He acknowledged he has also spoken with AT&T.

And, he said, if the Board of Supervisors does not approve the application, he may bring it to the General Assembly to override them.

“I am deeply committed to protecting our environment, and it’s always a balancing act, but in this case I believe the mitigations justify pressing forward,” Bell said.

9 thoughts on “Bell Backs AT&T Short Hill Tower Plan, Threatens State Action

  • 2021-09-03 at 4:10 pm
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    “He (Senator Bell) acknowledged he has also spoken with AT&T”. I bet the AT&T folks had a lot to say…and I bet they offered to contribute lot of money to his campaign coffers.

  • 2021-09-03 at 4:16 pm
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    Democrat John Bell is hard at work supporting huge corporations over the will of the people. In other words, this is more business-as-usual coming out of Richmond. Time to check the records for large contributions into Mr. Bell’s election coffers.

  • 2021-09-03 at 4:36 pm
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    Bazooka Johnny crawls out from under the rock he’s been hiding under for the last year and immediately sides with yet another corporation against the people.

    Worst state senator ever.

  • 2021-09-03 at 4:39 pm
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    The (D) party is in bed with Big Tech. We’ve seen it at the national level for many years. But now it’s right here, in our backyard.

    Virginians desperately need to end the (D) majority in this state.

  • 2021-09-03 at 11:02 pm
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    There is something seriously wrong with the whole AT&T proposal. For a state senator to try and push the county to approve this rings like someone is hiding something. And for State Senator Bell to then threaten to get the General Assembly to overwrite the wishes of the citizens who live here. AT&T does not seem to be playing fair and before this is approved, it needs to be totally in the open, including any connections between Bell and AT&T. Something is rotten in Denmark, and Loudoun!

    • 2021-09-04 at 5:48 pm
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      Well ‘Cat, since you asked, Ole’ Bazooka Johnny has “up to $250K” of stock in AT&T according to his investment report on the Va Public Access Project — an indispensable resource for all Virginians. In fact, Bazooka Johnny has a rather remarkable portfolio, (and that’s just what he admits to) along with being one of the best funded politicians in Richmond.

  • 2021-09-04 at 6:33 am
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    Question. How much money has been contributed to or promised to Sen. Bell ? Just asking since he has decided to issue what appears to be a threat to the BOS.

  • 2021-09-04 at 5:53 pm
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    No mystery here. A large “donation” will be forthcoming into the election coffers of you know who!

    John Bell emerges and takes the side of AT$T, despite Loudoun residents saying otherwise.

    Go away ,Mr Bell , and mind your own business.

    I, for one will be donating to Bell’s opponent.

  • 2021-09-06 at 7:33 am
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    This issue seems to raise a lot of questions:
    1 Is this a view impact consideration versus a job creating, tax revenue creating and business friendly development?
    2 Is there a conflict of interest between elected officials and the decisions they supposedly make on our behalf?
    3 Is this strictly a commercial offering or is there a national defense consideration given the proximity to D.O.D. facilities in the area?
    4 Are there any other elected officials trolling for campaign donations from AT&T or indirect business connections?
    Finally, it would be nice to see our BOS actually publish a list of their priorities now that they have been in office for enough time to realize there is more to Loudoun that just removing statues, changing our court located plaques and changing highway names! 🙂

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