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Orange approves Montpelier tower
Orange supervisors approve tower at Montpelier, after taking a few digs at National Trust for Historic Preservation

Date published: 9/16/2010


Orange County supervisors have approved putting a cell tower on James Madison's Montpelier, but not before taking a few shots at the property owner--the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust sued the county over granting Walmart a special-use permit to build a Supercenter in the Wilderness battlefield area at the other end of the county. An Orange County judge eventually ruled that the trust didn't have any standing to sue, but the lawsuit continues with the remaining plaintiffs.

So some supervisors used the public hearing on the cell-tower request Tuesday night to chastise the trust for what they called hypocrisy.

Montpelier Foundation President Mike Quinn explained that although the trust owns the historic property, it is Montpelier and its visitors that need the cell tower.

"I'm having a hard time getting my head around the staggering hypocrisy of the National Trust," Supervisor Zack Burkett said. "It's right in the middle of 'hallowed ground.'"

Supervisors Teel Goodwin and Lee Frame concurred.

After learning from Quinn that the trust had to OK the cell tower on its historic property, Frame said, "It doesn't jibe with fair or equivalent. I'd like to hear the National Trust explain the differences" between the tower and Walmart.

Supervisor Shannon Abbs --who represents the district that includes Montpelier, and like her constituents, wants better cell phone and Internet service--reminded fellow supervisors that a cell tower is needed.

"I agree that we need the cell tower," Goodwin said, but went on to deplore "the National Trust's hypocrisy of what's good for them is not good for everyone else."

In the end, all five supervisors voted to approve the special-use permit to build the tower, but Burkett noted that he was "holding my nose" to do so.

The evening's other public hearing, the Piedmont Environmental Council's request to rezone from residential to agricultural 265 acres of land given to it by the Artery Group produced nearly unanimous support from speakers.

But the town of Orange needs to work with PEC to retain and expand its waterline easement across the property, so the supervisors voted to delay its vote until Oct. 12.

The town originally wanted the supervisors to require the PEC to provide the easement to grant the rezoning. But supervisors are still upset because town officials wouldn't require the developer of the Round Hill mixed-use development to give the county a sizable proffer to mitigate the development's effect on the county school system.

The PEC and the town are set to work it out.

Robin Knepper: 540/972-5701
Email: rknepper@earthlink.net