Parklawn Cell Tower: AT&T Reps Answer Residents' Questions
Community remains divided about cell tower at Parklawn pool.
AT&T representatives answered questions about a proposed 183-foot cell tower on the grounds of the Parklawn Recreation Association Thursday evening but failed to win over those staunchly opposed to the tower.
AT&T held the informational meeting at George Mason Regional Library in Annandale. The company plans to construct the tower, which will be disguised as a treepole, at 6011 Crater Place, just outside West End Alexandria.
Community members remain divided about the tower’s future. Becky Choi, a local resident protesting the tower, said AT&T representatives provided some good additional data.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for some of what they provided,” Choi said. “We had some specific letters we sent to them and they would not respond. So, we’re glad to see it. We also realize that they’re lawyers for AT&T. They aren’t allowed to say anything that could be detrimental to their client. So, I think they answered some questions but not to the depth or satisfaction that we’d like.”
Kevin Hogan, a member of the pool’s board of directors for 17 years, maintained his support of the tower. “The information was important,” he said. “It was important to diffuse some of the unwarranted criticism that it’s faced, in terms of property values and in terms of, ‘It should be located somewhere else,’ and things of that nature.”
AT&T representative Ed Donohue told the crowd that similar towers have raised property values, not lowered them, because home values go up when cellular reception improves. Some of these studies were done in Fairfax County, he said.
AT&T plans to build an 8-foot board-on-board fence around the tower compound, with 42 trees planted around the compound edges, Donohue said. He also said a Feb. 13 report by Bechtel Communications concluded plans for the AT&T site plus two potential additional carriers were in full compliance with the FCC and OSHA standards and falls well below the Maximum Permissible Exposure limits (MPE).
Donohue said some schools, most notably high schools in Fairfax County, are open to locating telecommunications equipment on their property, but AT&T couldn’t find a high school location to serve the area surrounding Parklawn.
He also said when the matter comes before county planning and zoning staff, the county will notify everyone in the area about AT&T’s plans.
Choi expressed concern that additional carriers who build onto the site later would enlarge the project’s footprint. Donohue said the additional carriers would likely install equipment adjacent to the AT&T equipment and would have go through a process with the county.
“That’s subject to the same process that we’re going through,” he said.
The tower would undergo maintenance on average every month, except for emergency repairs. A downward-facing, motion-sensitive light would be installed at the compound base, but the tower would not be lit up at night.
Donohue said as part of the site selection, AT&T first looked at co-location with other equipment, then rooftops and water tanks, then schools. None of those worked in this case, he said. Also, Donohue said, the tower is out of the property’s resource protection area.
Tower opponents and supporters engaged in a testy back and forth exchange about who could see the proposed pole from their residences, whether a treepole would be worse than utility poles and how the tree’s height would disrupt views.
The next steps in the process are at Tuesday’s Mason District Land Use Committee meeting, followed by public hearings before the planning commission and Board of Zoning Appeals. The date the project goes before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors remains to be determined.
Earlier this month, AT&T flew a red locater balloon over the proposed tower site so residents could determine whether they would see the tower from their properties.