Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Efforts are moving ahead to speed up the process by which applications for new towers for wireless telecommunications are approved by the
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
Representatives from wireless companies have been asking the county to streamline its cell tower ordinance before a series of applications for next-generation antennae are filed this year.
“What we’re trying to do there is identify some things we can do quickly in terms of amending the ordinance,” said Bill Fritz, the county’s chief of special projects.
Fritz told supervisors Wednesday that staff has been able to identify ways to shorten the application process by at least one month for towers that require a special use permit.
The county will retain Kreines & Krienes, a California-based company, to provide information on the current state of the wireless industry to see how Albemarle might change its ordinance to accommodate industry claims that more visible towers might be necessary to provide reliable data service to mobile customers.
Kreines & Kreines was involved in crafting the county’s ordinance back in 2000.
“The proposal would describe the technology changes [since 2000], provide standardized terminology, summarize court decisions influencing regulations on processing of applications… and would provide information on providing broadband in the rural areas,” Fritz said.
Kenneth C. Boyd
questioned the need to hire a consultant.
“Maybe the industry experts here in this county that have actually dealt with the ordinance might have some very good input,” Boyd said.
Dennis S. Rooker
said the consultant does not have a financial stake in the outcome, whereas as representatives from nTelos, Verizon and AT&T do.
“There are two issues here,” Rooker said. “One is protecting aesthetics and visibility in the community, and the second is providing the service…I think we need somebody that is neutral.”
Attorney Valerie Long, who represents AT&T, said she was glad staff was quickly working on the issues.
“[They] have put forth their own suggestions that we believe will significantly improve the current process for reviewing applications, and save the county and the applicants significant time and resources while preserving the fundamental goals of the county’s policies,” Long said.
In other news, supervisors agreed to schedule a public hearing on whether the Albemarle County Service Authority’s jurisdictional area should be expanded to allow the developer of the 29-unit Keswick Lake subdivision to tap into the water system.
The board rezoned the land for dense residential development in 1978, two years before adopting a comprehensive plan to limit growth in Albemarle’s rural areas.
Staff recommended against granting the expansion because to do so would not be consistent with county policy of restricting public water to areas in the designated growth area.
Developer Andrew Baldwin said relying on wells to provide the water would likely fail and that he would pay connection fees to the ACSA in order to connect to a guaranteed resource.
“I think this is a much better option than forcing us down a path that will eventually run us into major problems,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin said the subdivision would use a septic system that utilizes the Worrell Living Machine system. The Virginia Department of Health will have to approve the device.
In January, supervisors approved a waiver that will allow for the flood plain to be filled in so Baldwin could add a second entrance to the development.
Supervisors agreed to schedule the public hearing for later this year, but some said they were not sure they would vote for the expansion.
“I’m worried about the precedent we might be setting,” Supervisor
Christopher J. Dumler
said. “But if there are good reasons for why we should approve this, I’m willing to listen.”