A new kind of cell phone antenna may be make its Fairfax County debut along the Georgetown Pike and other parts of the Great Falls area.
Nextel wants to install the “Distributive Antenna System,” to improve cellular reception to major roadways in Great Falls, and came to the Planning Commission seeking approval for the system. It consists of antennas mounted on existing utility poles in the area. The 59-inch-long, 1.5-inch diameter antennas will be mounted at the top of the poles. A converter box which will change the signal from radio waves to the light used in fiberoptics will be mounted on the pole about 10 feet from the ground.
“This is a quantum leap forward in telecommunication technology in our county,” said Commission chair Peter Murphy (Springfield).
Based on input from the Great Falls Citizens’ Association, the boxes will be painted a color to match the poles, said Ed Donohue, attorney for Nextel. Fiberoptic cables will connect the boxes to an existing Nextel site.
Great Falls Resident Don Frank lives near one of the proposed antennas and expressed concerns about the potential effect that the radio signals will have on his young children. ‘I don’t think they fully addressed emissions,” Frank said. He thinks that the issue requires more study. Frank said he would not have bought his house if he had known about the antennas being installed.
Donohue said that the emissions will come in well below federal guidelines.
The McLean Citizen’s Association supported the proposal. “It does solve the problem of service along Georgetown Pike,” said Jim Robertson of the association.
Planning Commissioner Nancy Hopkins (Dranesville), echoing concerns of the Great Falls Citizen’s Association, noted safety concerns with people driving along the hilly and winding roads Georgetown Pike while on a cell phone.
However, “that’s not a land use issue,” Hopkins said.
The Planning Commission approved the new antennae system unanimously.