About 75 Parklawn residents and concerned community neighbors joined representatives from AT&T at Tuesday night’s Mason District Land Use Committee (MDLUC) meeting at the Mason District Governmental Center to discuss the proposed AT&T 128-foot cell tower.
The tower, which is a “monopine,” or a cell tower disguised as a redwood tree, will be located at 6011 Crater Place in Mason District, just outside West End Alexandria, if the application is approved.
AT&T representative Ed Donohue gave the presentation and said customer complaints about the lack of coverage in the area prompted the company’s decision to construct a tower in the neighborhood. Donohue said finding an appropriate location was difficult due to the challenging topography of the neighborhood and told the committee that AT&T considered and evaluated alternative sites, but the Parklawn pool was the only viable option that would provide adequate coverage to the Parklawn community.
Earlier this month, AT&T performed a “balloon test” on the tower site to give residents an idea of what the tower would like when viewed from their homes.
Donohue also reiterated several points that were raised at an informational meeting in Annandale last week, such as:
- AT&T plans to build an 8-foot board-on-board fence around the tower compound.
- There will be 42 trees planted around the compound edges to help with screening and allow the monopole to blend in.
- The monopine will be able to accommodate two additional, future carriers.
Ray Lounsbury, chair of the MDLUC, said he was disappointed AT&T could not provide information about possible alternative sites to the committee or give a specific projection during the presentation of how, if at all, the coverage would improve with the addition of the cell tower.
The tower has divided the Parklawn community as residents fight for or against the tower’s approval. Following the presentation, residents opposed to the tower, including representatives from PACACT, a community group formed to protest the tower, again raised concerns about the tower lowering the property values of their homes and said the tower’s presence would negatively interrupt their views of the neighborhood.
The Parklawn Civic Association has not taken an official position on the cell phone tower, but Parklawn Recreation Association (PRA) president Heath Brown spoke out Tuesday night in support of the tower. Brown said the tower would benefit the community by improving current cell reception and provide the community pool with much-needed revenue.
The pool, Brown said, was an important social and recreational part of the community. According to Brown, the pool lacks the resources to repair several facility issues and is unable to be sustained solely on its dwindling membership. Without outside revenue, the pool will be unable to maintain the facility and is in danger of closing, said Brown.
Janet Hall, representative for Mason District on the Fairfax County Planning Commission, told the audience that the Planning Commission could not consider several of the issues raised by residents such as health concerns, potential revenue for the Parklawn pool or the potential increase in cellular coverage when in their decision about whether to approve the application.
“I know how emotional these cases are … but we deal with land use issues … you have very valid points, but don’t muddy it up with supporting the pool or other issues,” said Hall.
Hall also added that the Planning Commission always hears the argument about property values, but rarely sees evidence supporting the argument enough to consider it in decisions.
“Not everyone wants to live next to a monopole, but from the evidence presented, we don’t see an impact on resale values for houses,” said Hall.
AT&T plans to re-present to the MDLUC at its Tuesday, March 26 meeting with any changes to the application and the additional details requested by the committee. The public hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission is scheduled for Thursday, April 25. The Board of Zoning Appeals hearing date is scheduled for Wednesday, May 8. The application will go before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at a yet to be determined date.
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