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Reston Association Seeks Community Feedback on Cell Tower in Park

by Karen Goff — May 5, 2014 at 10:00 am 15 Comments

Proposed location of cell phone pole at Hunters Woods Park/Credit: Milestone

Residents who live in the Hunters Woods section of Reston have been notified about plans for a new cell phone tower that may be built on the edge of Hunters Woods Park.

The proposal is for a 115-foot monopole that would be located in the wooded area behind the soccer field at the park off of Reston Parkway. The equipment will be located in a fenced-in and secured shelter at the park, which is part of Reston Association.

The proposal comes from AT&T and Milestone Communications, a Reston firm that develops partnerships between cell phone companies and landowners (such as schools and towns) for tower locations.

There will be a public meeting on the subject at 7 p.m. on May 12 at Reston Community Center Hunters Woods.

Milestone has teamed with local entities many times over the last several years. There are several hundred existing cell phone poles on Fairfax County Public Schools land, including at South Lakes High School, Herndon Middle School, Madison High School and Carson Middle School, to name a few.

The proposal to put the pole on RA-owned land would have to go through RA’s Design Review Board., says Larry Butler, RA’s Parks and Recreation Director. It would also go through the Fairfax County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.

There have been two proposals in the past to build a tower on RA property, says Butler. One request was dropped by the carrier; the other was not approved by the DRB.

RA would benefit financially from the arrangement. The cell phone companies pay the landowners to lease the pole space. FCPS, for instance, has made more than $4 million from the arrangement over the last six years, FCPS officials said.

Milestone collects rent from the wireless carriers on its towers, 40 percent of which goes to FCPS. Schools receive $25,000 each time a tower is built, and then $5,000 from each wireless carrier that leases space on the tower.

Milestone says schools and parks are ideal locations for these towers because they often have existing structures, such as field light poles, in place. Many Milestone towers are disguised as trees, so lots of times they go unnoticed.

The alternative is putting them in more prominent places, he said, and pouring that money into a privately-owned property, instead of into the schools, Milestone CEO Len Forkas has said.

As citizens add more wireless devices to their collections, wireless traffic is expected to grow exponentially. Milestone estimates that data traffic in 2015 will be 56 times the volume it was in 2009. What’s more, the poles must be located close to the people (and the devices) they are serving.

FCPS has done studies on cell phones being located on school grounds and has determined the practice is safe.

To read more information on the potential Hunters Woods cell tower, visit HuntersWoodsWirelesspole.com.

Photo: Proposed cell phone pole/Credit: Milestone

  • On the face of it seems like a bad idea, but if it brings in Millions for the County Public school system….may not be a bad idea at all.

    • Karen Goff

      This would bring in money for RA. Just using the school system example as how the leases work.

      • If it brings down the RA HOA fee, I think Reston residents will go for it.

        • Adrian Havill

          Dream on!

  • Azurra

    1) Who informed residents and how? It seems I missed the notification.
    2) Thanks for letting me know about the public meeting. I will attend.
    3) In your example of FCPS receiving $4 million, do you know how many poles that is? And how much RA could expect to receive from rent for this one pole? (I guess I can find this out at the meeting).
    4) The AT&T website listed describes having equipment at the base of the pole that would be securely fenced in, I wonder what the total area covered will be (and how much of that forested area will need to be removed).
    5) Again that AT&T website has a nifty ‘What Will it Look like’ page, showing views of the pole from various vantage points. This was helpful for me, showing that a 115-ft pole will be mostly obscured by trees from a far distance. I’m more concerned of what the base of the pole, with the equipment, will look like as one is walking down that path to and from Reston Parkway.

    • Karen Goff

      Azurra – there was a mailing to families in the HW area. Not sure yet how much rental fee RA would earn. To be determined?

      • Constance Hartke

        I did not receive a mailing and I am in the Hunters Woods District. Unless someone knows, I will inquire how they determined who they would postal notify.

        • andrewivo

          Mailing was likely done by the RA / DRB to those considered “interested parties”. I don’t know the exact definition but its probably only adjacent properties. Which makes sense when someone is remodeling their porch but is not all that comprehensive when we are talking about a cell tower.

    • Constance Hartke

      The households in this photo got the notification, per the project manager.

  • Constance Hartke

    I emailed the project manager to ask if they plan to camouflage the pole to look like a tree. The answer came back that they are flexible and interested in what the community wants. He said he will bring photos to the hearing. Given the height, some have said it may be best not to add horizontal lines (tree limbs) to it.

    I have also asked what the base will look like. Will let you know what he says.

    – Connie Hartke

    • Kate Peterson

      Be careful what you ask for-

      • Constance Hartke

        I’ve been talking with the project manager and it’s pretty clear that the tree look is not appropriate for this location. It’s nice in Great Falls Park.

  • krank

    My house is actually in the photo above. We have gotten two postcards about this in the mail already. I am curious to hear more about how it will look and how much it will stand out among the trees in that area as those trees are pretty tall.

  • Constance Hartke
  • Bo Tye

    As we are seeing more today, nefarious quacks have begun to argue that there is no need to limit the power of government officials because they have been chosen through democratic processes.

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