Deny the CWS-Andrew Chapel 2232 Application, Special Exception Request, and Special Permit Request
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Andrew Chapel United Methodist Church has signed a contract with Community Wireless Structures("CWS") to install a 120 foot tall cell phone tower, disguised as a faux bell tower, on its property. Many area residents are opposed to installing a cell tower at this particular location.
We specifically request the following: (1) the Fairfax County Planning Commission determine that the proposed use fails to conform with the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan with respect to location, character and extent under the 2232 process; (2) the Fairfax County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors deny the Special Exception request to construct a telecommunication facility; and (3) the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals deny the Special Permit request to construct a telecommunication facility.
Reasons for Opposition
For the following reasons, we oppose the construction of the proposed cell tower:
1. The proposed cell tower is contrary to the spirit and language of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan. Andrew Chapel is a modest church surrounded by unassuming residences located in wooded neighborhoods. The proposed tower would have a significant negative visual impact on the surrounding area and would not blend into the otherwise serene landscape. It would not fit with the character of this community. The Andrew Chapel property is currently zoned as R-1. An R-1 designation exists for the very purpose of not allowing this type of commercial structure to infiltrate residential neighborhoods. The addition of the cell tower would negatively affect the harmony of the neighborhood and undoubtedly would impact the neighboring homes.
2. The proposed height of the tower is inappropriate for the neighborhood. The 120 foot cell tower at Andrew Chapel would literally tower over the buildings, homes and trees in the area. The mature trees surrounding the church are approximately 50-60 feet in height, half of the height of the proposed tower. There is not sufficient vegetation on the property to block the tower, and even if additional trees and vegetation are planted, the tower would still be visible from Route 7 and all angles on the Andrew Chapel property due to its disproportionate height. There are NO existing structures of similar height for with the proposed tower to blend. The church building, trees and vegetation would not come close to "screening" the 120 foot cell tower.
3. The proposed faux bell tower is not architecturally appropriate for Andrew Chapel. Both Andrew Chapel and Saint Athanasius Catholic Church, the church across the street at 1316 Trap Road, have existing bell towers. These bell towers are architecturally appropriate for, and are in consistent character with, the churches and the surrounding area. These towers are part of the existing church buildings. The Andrew Chapel bell tower is approximately 29 feet tall, and the Saint Athanasius bell tower is approximately 36 feet tall. These towers exactly represent what a bell tower should look like in this modest, wooded neighborhood setting. The proposed 120 foot faux bell tower in no way resembles the existing bell towers, in height, appearance or in character.
4. The proposed cell tower would impair the vista from the Andrew Chapel Cemetery, a designated historic site in Fairfax County. The cell tower would be in the direct line of sight of tour groups, relatives and loved ones visiting the cemetery. The tower would impair this view significantly.
5. Constructing a new cell tower should be the last resort. Other options include expanding nearby existing cell towers (at Providence Baptist Church, Old Dominion Drive-Spring Hill Road, and/or those in Tysons) and/or using Distributed Antenna Systems ("DAS"). The proposed cell tower would likely result in redundancy in coverage, and other site locations would be better suited to address coverage needs along Route 7, near Tysons and between Wolf Trap and Old Dominion Drive (the applicants’ targeted service area). Public coverage maps for the two dominant local carriers in this area, Verizon and AT&T, already show strong coverage throughout this area. It is unclear if a new tower is needed at this location. Moreover, there are commercial properties located along Route 7 where a cell tower could be placed.
6. Safety issues arise with building a cell tower in an area full of young children. CWS proposes to place this cell tower in the field at Andrew Chapel, next to their preschool and playground. Andrew Chapel's preschool is licensed to have 99 babies, toddlers and preschool aged children. The field and playground are open to children at all times, but are unsupervised by the church (aside from when the preschool teachers are outside). Young children cannot read danger signs and are known for their curiosity. Gates can be left unlocked, and unlike adults, children do not understand the dangers surrounding cell tower equipment. An additional approximate 900 young children attend close by Colvin Run Elementary School. Andrew Chapel regularly hosts weekly meetings for children's organizations. Children are constantly at this location. Additional hazards include the introduction of workmen to an unlocked preschool, ice fall, fire, tower collapse and electrical issues.
7. The proposed cell tower would add to traffic issues on Trap Road, a small two lane road. To add construction and maintenance vehicles for the proposed cell tower is an unnecessary burden on this street. School buses and parents transporting children to school should take first priority.
We respectfully request that the Fairfax County officials consider all of the above factors with respect to the CWS-Andrew Chapel United Methodist Church application, and (1) determine that the proposed use fails to conform with the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan under a 2232 Review; (2) deny the Special Exception request to construct a telecommunication facility; and (3) deny the Special Permit request to construct a telecommunication facility.
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