Reston Association’s Design Review Board unanimously shot down T-Mobile’s plans to install cell phone equipment on the roof of Waterford Square Condominiums Tuesday night — noting that the company’s tweaked plans did little to address residents’ concerns about the equipment’s incompatibility with the building.
T-Mobile proposed to install cell phone equipment on the building, igniting vehement opposition from residents’ who argued the equipment was extremely visible, damaged the building’s character and posed possible health concerns.
Richard Newlon, the DRB’s chair, said T-Mobile’s plan, which was similar to plans rejected by the board in April, did little to address the panel’s concerns about the visibility of the equipment. Panels are around 12 feet high and 10 feet wide.
“It was clear in April that this kind of design is not going to get approved by this board and it’s the same design,” Newlon said. “It’s almost embarrassing to be sitting here saying the same thing again and I don’t want to be… six months from now… saying the same thing again.”
DRB members also worried that installing cell phone equipment on a residential building could lead to similar proposals by other service providers. The redevelopment of Lake Anne Fellowship House prompted T-Mobile to remove its equipment from the rooftop and scout for other locations in Reston.
More than 25 people, including condominium residents and neighbors of the building, opposed the plan on Tuesday. Some noted that their stance was not indicative of mere opposition to change, adding that residents of the condominium were exploring the possibility of installing solar panels on the roof.
“We’re not trying to live in the past,” one resident, who lived in the building for roughly 20 years, said.
Ed Donahue, T-Mobile’s legal representative, said the company had attempted to strike a compromise by scaling back the structure from the edge of the roof and installing plastic, brick-like screening for the equipment. Donahue also noted that possible health concerns and zoning were outside of the DRB’s purview.
“We are in full compliance of the federal guidelines as we are on the thousands of sites in Virginia,” Donahue said, comparing T-Mobile’s plans to a similar installation at the Heron House.
Other DRB members said that T-Mobile failed to convince the board how the cell phone equipment and towers would be compatible with the architectural integrity of the building.
“I still see that it’s visible and it does detract from the architecture and the roofline,” said Grace Peters, a DRB member.
The equipment by other companies displaced by development at the Lake Anne Fellowship House have not yet proposed plans for reinstallation to other sites.
Photo via handout/Reston Association