Reston Association Seeks Community Feedback on Cell Tower in Park

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

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