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BY DAN McFARLAND
Planning commissioners are endorsing construction of a new telecommunications tower that is expected to fill gaps in wireless coverage in eastern Orange County.
Speaking Thursday at a commission public hearing, Tam Murray of Community Wireless Structures told the panel that a gap in wireless coverage exists east of the town of Orange, between existing towers at Wilderness and Unionville. The 195-foot-tall tower with a 4-foot lightning rod his company wants to erect would close that gap, he said.
Community Wireless Structures, applying on behalf of Jason and Everett Ayers, is seeking a special-use permit to build the tower on the north side of State Route 20 about half a mile east of Burr Hill Road.
The application noted that the proposed monopole will accommodate up to four wireless-service providers, in addition to leaving enough space for county needs. The company has already received a letter of intent from Verizon to use the tower, Murray said.
"Given the spacing, I would expect AT&T to go in there, as well," he added. "Sprint will eventually start building again. It would be good for their spacing as well, and there is talk of a first-responders' network that is probably five years off."
Speaking against the request, Erin Frey of Oakwood Lake Drive just east of the proposed tower site questioned the proximity of the tower to Route 20 and whether flashing lights from the tower could be seen from nearby homes.
She also noted that a stream runs through the site, into her subdivision's pond and then into Mine Run and expressed concerns of pollution coming downstream with more industrial activity in the area.
Her husband, John Frey, said his major concern was runoff into their community pond, used by residents of the Oakwood Lake subdivision.
The applicant and county planning staff indicated that the tower would be approximately 150 yards off the road, that it was not expected to produce any additional runoff downstream, and that, at less than 200 feet tall, would not be lit.
The commission then voted unanimously to recommend approval of the permit. The Board of Supervisors will make the final decision.
In other action, District 3 Commissioner Donald Brooks was elected chairman of the Planning Commission for the coming year. District 1 Commissioner Andy Hutchison was re-elected vice chairman.