|AT&T representative Ed Donohue testifies before the Board of Supervisors.|
Following a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors hearing on the Parklawn cell tower Sept. 10 in which 34 people testified, the board approved a motion by Mason Supervisor Penny Gross to postpone a decision until Sept. 24.
Gross noted the “unusual situation” with regard to the cell tower proposed for a site owned by the Parklawn Recreation Association (PRA): The Fairfax County Planning Commission had endorsed the cell tower, determining it fits in with the county’s Comprehensive Plan, while the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) had rejected a special permit exception to allow it on PRA property because it’s not harmonious with the character of the neighborhood.
Board members had few questions at the Sept. 10 hearing. Gross asked the AT&T representative, Ed Donohue, whether he considered other locations, such as Peace Lutheran Church or Queen of Apostles Church. Donohue said those locations were considered but won’t work.
Gerald Hyland (Mount Vernon) asked whether AT&T had considered other locations on PRA property where the tower would be less visually intrusive. Donohue said other sites were rejected because too many trees would have to be removed and much of the property is a flood plain or resource protection area.
Among the people who testified, 22 urged the board to approve the cell tower, while 12 opposed it.
Many of those who spoke raised the same issues they presented at previous meetings. Most of those in favor of the cell tower live in the Heywood Glen neighborhood. They spoke about poor cell coverage, the safety risks of being unable to access emergency services, and the value of keeping the Parklawn pool as a community asset. The income generated by a cell tower would allow the pool to be financially stable.
Those opposed talked about the visual impact of the cell tower and its harm to property values. The tower “will destroy the character of the neighborhood,” said Linda Barrett, who lives next door to the proposed site. She noted that many of the people speaking in favor of the tower are members of the pool but don’t live in Parklawn. “The pool is only open 90 days a year. I live here 365 days a year.”
Sybil Laird, who lives close to the proposed site, isn’t bothered by aesthetics. “Utility poles and wires are even more intrusive and we don’t give them a second thought,” she said.
Several people said the cell tower is needed because there’s no cell coverage on Homes Run Trail and people can’t access emergency services if there’s a crime or accident. But some of those opposed said they have phone logs showing there is adequate coverage.