main banner

Friday, May 9, 2014

Court affirms zoning board's rejection of Parklawn cell tower

The 19th Judicial Circuit Court of Virginia on May 7 affirmed a decision by the Fairfax Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) last July to reject a proposal for a cell tower on land owned by the Parklawn Recreation Association.

“We are appreciative of the court’s thorough review of the case and its decision to uphold the BZA’s denial of the special permit,” said Becky Choi, a Parklawn resident who spearheaded the opposition to the cell tower. “We are optimistic that this could be the end of the issue and that we can get to the business of healing the community.”

AT&T’s application for a cell tower application has been extremely disruptive for the Parklawn community. Some residents bitterly fought the monopole, calling it an eyesore that would depress property values. Others urged county officials to approve it, arguing that cell service is inadequate and that the pool needs the revenue.

On July 31, the BZA voted to deny the application for a special permit for the cell tower on the grounds that it isn’t compatible with provisions in the county’s Comprehensive Plan that require structures in fit in harmoniously with surrounding properties. The BZA also noted that the majority of the opponents are members of the Parklawn Pool who don’t live near the proposed site of the monopole. AT&T appealed to the Circuit Court.

At that point the Fairfax County Planning Commission had already approved the cell tower. The Board of Supervisors approved it Sept. 24.

The 45-page Circuit Court opinion by Judge Randy Bellows rejects AT&T’s argument that the BZA decision was based on erroneous principles of law, was “plainly wrong,” violated the purpose and intent of the zoning ordinance, and was “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.” 

BZA rulings do not have to conform to decisions by the Planning Commission, the court stated. It also reaffirmed the BZA’s contention that AT&T should have pursued other technologies and locations. And it agreed with the BZA determination that the photographs of the balloon test presented by the applicant were misleading.

“It is not the duty of this court to substitute its judgment for that of the BZA,” the ruling states. “The court may only overturn a ruling that is ‘plainly wrong.’” And in this case, the court found that the BZA based its judgment on a thorough consideration of all the evidence presented by both sides.


  1. A long read but worthwhile. The reasoning behind the affirmation of the BZA decision is well grounded and thorough.

  2. Thank heavens there really can be justice in Mason District.