The following text was taken from an email alert sent out on September 10, 2021. Sign up for PEC email alerts >>
At 6 pm on Tuesday, Sept. 14, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on a proposed AT&T monopole tower to be built on the ridgeline of Short Hill Mountain in northwestern Loudoun. The 125-foot monopole would be located at an existing AT&T communications facility in an agricultural zoning district.
The planning commission held a public hearing on June 22, 2021, in which it offered a recommendation of denial for AT&T’s application for a commission permit (CMPT-2020-0005) on the grounds of inconsistency with the county’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance regulations.
In late July, the board of supervisors overruled (8-1) the commission’s recommendation of denial of the commission permit. This decision enables the board to consider whether the proposed facility is consistent with the comprehensive plan during its public hearing for two special exception applications next Tuesday night. [Loudoun Supervisors Send AT&T Short Hill Tower to Public Hearing. Loudoun Now, July 2021.]
In order for the proposal to move forward, the board of supervisors would need to determine consistency with the comprehensive plan as well as approve both special exceptions. The September 14 public hearing is an important opportunity for residents to defend the comprehensive plan and ordinances by urging denial of the tower due to unacceptable levels of impact to the community and natural and scenic assets.
Approving the Tower Would Set Harmful Precedent
PEC supports increased broadband and cell service, but there are multiple ways to increase levels of service without destroying important aspects of community character. This tower would sit upon a highly visible ridgeline, far above the tree-line in the heart of the Blue Ridge. Approval of the application would undermine not just one, but multiple processes of public input meant to guide land use decisions in the county.
More on our specific concerns:
- Inconsistency with the county’s comprehensive plan. The scenic impacts to the Short Hill Mountain viewshed would be in direct conflict with the comprehensive plan, which commits to protecting the environmental and scenic qualities of the county’s prime viewsheds.
- Violation of the zoning ordinance. The zoning ordinance has strict regulations explicitly prohibiting the construction of telecom monopoles on top of ridgelines, even in the event of an approved special exception: “Monopoles, General Performance Criteria. All telecommunications monopoles, whether permitted by right or permissible with the approval of a special exception application, shall be subject to the following criteria:
. . . (p) Telecommunications 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.” [Section 5-618 (Revision Date: June 2, 2020)]
- Limited public support for a monopole at this location. At the planning commission hearing, multiple members of the public spoke in opposition to the siting of the monopole and questioned its limited broadband impact in that location. They also spoke of AT&T’s repeated lack of responsiveness to public feedback and inquiry. [AT&T Mid-Atlantic planning new cell tower for Short Hill Mountain in western Loudoun. Loudoun Times, June 2020.]
Please ask the board of supervisors to follow the planning commission’s recommendation of denial to reject AT&T’s proposal in its entirety, including the two special exception permits. You can do this in two ways:
- Email BOS@Loudoun.gov and reference “CMPT 2020-0005 ATT Morrisonville” in the subject line to express your concern to the board of supervisors ahead of the public hearing. The AT&T proposal is agenda item #12.
- Attend the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday and sign-up to speak by contacting the Office of the County Administrator at (703) 777-0200.
Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 6 pm.
1 Harrison St. SE, Leesburg, VA 20175
The hearing will also be live-streamed at www.loudoun.gov/meetings.
It is essential that the county protect our natural and scenic assets and uphold its own policy, which was designed precisely to prevent the construction of monopoles on the ridgeline. Broadband service can be accomplished in a way that doesn’t conflict with our values and established policies.
Thank you for your attention to this issue. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me!
Loudoun & Clarke County Field Representative
The Piedmont Environmental Council
- Residents Press for More Answers on Short Hill Plans. Loudoun Now, May 2016.
- What’s up there? There’s more than meets the eye to Short Hill Mountain. Loudoun Times-Mirror, June 2016.
- AT&T Mid-Atlantic planning new cell tower for Short Hill Mountain in western Loudoun. Loudoun Times, June 2020.
- After rejection by Planning Commission, supervisors to consider proposed cell tower. Loudoun Times-Mirror, June 2021.
- Loudoun Supervisors Send AT&T Short Hill Tower to Public Hearing. Loudoun Now, July 2021.
- Weeks: In opposition of proposed AT&T Short Hills tower. Loudoun Times, August 2021.
- Letter: Jennifer Moore, Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area, et al. Loudoun Now, September 2021.