The Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) voted Wednesday to deny AT&T’s application for a special permit to build a 128 ft. tall monopole on the Parklawn Recreation Association (PRA) property in Mason District.
The BZA decision, which was deferred following a public hearing on July 17, contradicts the previous recommendation by the Fairfax County Planning Commission to approve the application.
Six of the seven board members voted to deny the application with one abstention. However, the board voted 4-2 to approve a motion to waive the year-long waiting period for AT&T to file an application to build the cell tower elsewhere.
Residents who have spent close to a year fighting the proposed tower, which would have been located at 6011 Crater Place in Alexandria, reacted positively to the news.
“I am pleased that the board did a comprehensive review, including making site visits, to come to what I consider an appropriate resolution for the residents who would have been impacted year 'round by the proposed tower,” said resident Becky Choi.
Another Parklawn resident who declined to give his name echoed Choi’s comment and said he was pleased that the BZA recognized the impact the obtrusive tower would have on the community.
The proposed cell tower largely divided the Parklawn community, with both sides vocally championing or opposing the tower at various community meetings. A bunch of residents even formed a group called PACACT to protest the tower.
Board Cites Topography, Zoning Standards as Reasons to Deny Application
Board Member Norman P. Byers motioned to recommend the board deny the application and Board Member Nancy E. Gibb seconded the motion.
In his remarks, Byers said he disagreed with staff’s recommendation to approve the application because he doesn’t believe it “conforms with the Comprehensive Plan” and because the majority of the residents who oppose the tower don’t live close enough to be affected by it.
“As Ms. Gibb noted at the public hearing, this Board has one responsibility and that's to determine if this application meets Zoning Ordinance Criteria under section 8-006 of the Zoning Ordinance. In my view, this application did not meet standards 1, 2, or 3 of section 8-006,” said Byers.
The three standards Byers referenced include provisions that the proposed use of the permit exists in harmony with the comprehensive plan as well as the neighboring community properties without impairing the property of nearby land or buildings.
"The monopole is going to extend 50 to 75 feet above the treeline. The trees in this area are deciduous and are not pine and are going to be barren of leaves for a significant portion of the year, meaning residents immediately adjacent to the monopole will have a direct view of that monopole,” said Byers.
Board Member V. Max Beard agreed with Byers. Beard and another board member also raised concerns about the monopole’s visibility from Teton Place, indicating that the view from that street was largely an issue.
"Topography is the overriding factor," said Beard. "The community seems to set up around this somewhat in a stadium effect, so the effects of this monopole are substantial."
Despite supporting previous monopines installed in the Broyhill Crest and Holmes Run neighborhoods, Board Member James Hart agreed that the topography of the property was enough to reject the application.
"Because of the Topography, there was no way to screen the monopole or plant trees because it was so close to the houses, I thought it was running afoul of Standard 3,” said Hart.
It is unclear if AT&T will decide to file another application to build a monopole on a different property.
Read more about the Parklawn Cell Tower on Patch: