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UPDATE: Reston DRB Nixes Cell Tower For Hunters Woods Park

by Karen Goff June 19, 2014 at 9:30 am 12 Comments

Proposed location of cell phone pole at Hunters Woods Park/Credit: MilestoneReston Association’s Design Review Board on Tuesday unanimously denied the proposal for a 115-foot cell phone tower in Hunters Woods Park.

The tower would have been the first such structure on RA land, though there have been requests to do so before. One of those requests was dropped by the carrier; the other was also denied by the DRB.

Reston-based Milestone Communications and AT&T sought to install a monopole in the wooded area behind the soccer field at the park off of Reston Parkway. The equipment would be located in a fenced-in area of the park and would include cables and other support structures.

The DRB concurred with several community members that spoke of their concerns with the environment, property values and damage to trees, among others, at Tuesday’s meeting.

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 cell phone tower would have been a moneymaker for Reston Association. 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.

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

File photo of proposed cell phone pole/Credit: Milestone

  • Arielle in NoVA

    Sounds like a win for all – RA gets $; people at the park get cell reception; tower isn’t particularly visible or obtrusive. What was RA’s brilliant reasoning for rejecting it?

    • Scott H

      Agreed. I live next to the park and reception for AT&T is not great in the area. Our RA assessment went up 8% this year. Cell tower rent would help offset the ongoing cost for fabulous amenities like publishing Reston Magazine and paying for the DRB secret police to dictate that I must have a cheap special order globe light fixture installed on my deck backing to woods instead of a tasteful modern fixture. Apparently the Squirrels, the only ones that see the fixture, REALLY REALLY prefer the globes.
      While not perfect, there are plenty of ways to have the tower blend into the wooded environment. This is a missed opportunity for RA to enhance the lives of Reston residents….what a shame

      • Arielle in NoVA

        LOL on “Squirrels”.

  • Constance Hartke

    As far as the claim that no trees greater than 6″ diameter would be affected – who the heck did they think they were fooling? Not this Reston resident who spoke at the DRB meeting: Sunrise Valley Elementary’s eleven year old Emma Sebastian summed it up: “Come on, people. We learned photosynthesis in 2nd grade!”

  • RA Member

    I believe the DRB made the right decision.

  • BBurns

    Applause for the DRB. Great comment by 11-year-old Emma that Connie Hartke mentioned. Emma, we’ll need you as a leader when you are slightly older. Actually, you already began…

  • Tammi Petrine

    Too bad this article focuses on the income (money) vs. the environmental effects of this decision. Arielle, by the time the required 12′ X 20′ shed for each carrier (3 to 5 in number) leasing space on this pole and ancillary structures are figured in, there would not be much “woods” left in this location. In addition, the heavy equipment needed to raise the pole and put in the electrical lines would crush the roots of any remaining trees. To completely understand the wisdom of the DRB rejection, one needs to know that the pole is NOT the only structure involved. Though RA should certainly consider collecting easement fees for cable, which is relatively non-invasive, going through common areas, the kind of income from this monopole “opportunity” clearly do not outweigh the environmental damages that would have been done. Great job, DRB! Thank you for protecting our investment.

    • Arielle in NoVA

      Don’t remember seeing mention of multiple sheds and ancillary structures in the article. That information would be useful. It would help to see photos of their existing setups, particularly those on FCPS property.

      • Constance Hartke

        Click on the photo that is in my comment above to see the 115′ monopole ground equipment at Stone Middle School. Below is the diesel fuel container plus generator (for back-up power). Gow are these interconnected? Underground cables to each 12×20′ shed? From my email to RA and the DRB: “Since this will most likely arise again in the future, I want to share a few of the photos that I brought to the meeting. It has concerned me since the beginning that the main focus of the hunterswoodswirelesspole.com website is the view of the top of the pole. Clearly the DRB members understood the bigger question is the ground equipment at the base. Please add the attached photos to whatever files you have on the subject.”

        I represent the Hunters Woods District for the Reston Citizens Association. I feel badly for the angst the residents neighboring this Park had to suffer through the last few months. We’ll do what we can to help AT&T found an appropriate spot for the need. RA land is not the spot given the current state of technology.

  • dick

    This process began over 3 years ago with the DRB, Milestone and RA. Milestone originally proposed a 120 foot tall monopole with chain link enclosures at the base. Over the years, there followed 4 more meetings with the DRB, 3 Workshops and a Saturday morning site visit of several tower installations. At all of these meetings, Milestone was asked to look into the possibility of more attractive designs for both the tower and the equipment at the base. It was suggested, from the beginning, that this typical “side of the highway” design had no place on RA’s most precious properties. In addition to the Hunter Woods park and soccer field, some of our swimming pool sites were suggested as well. In Reston, we treasure our recreational sites, and the DRB felt that the possible proliferation of these towers (once the first one was installed) would be environmentally and visually destructive. After all of this time, meetings, site visits and workshops, Milestone chose to return with an application for basically the original design: a monopole. The “cabins” to house the equipment weren’t a true improvement with the masses of conduits, cables, wiring, a generator and access road(s) that would still be necessary. There was concern over the property values of the neighboring homes. This was a long and arduous process with a thoughtful conclusion.

  • Scott H

    I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t look that bad to me. Very tired of the NIMBY attitude. If the DRB only focused on how things looked, there are a million things that would have been done differently in Reston.

  • Parents’ Coalition

    Yes, we already know that in Montgomery County students can and do climb the fences to get into the cell tower compounds.

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