If a proposed 52-foot telephone pole was three-feet shorter and 18 inches narrower in diameter, McLean advocates wouldn’t have had the opportunity to testify against a communications antenna topping it.
“It would have been approvable as a ‘feature shown’ without a public hearing,” said Dranesville Planning Commissioner John Ulfelder.
At a decision-only hearing on Feb. 1, the Planning Commission recommended approval of the Verizon Wireless proposal for two panel antennas in a “stealth canister” flush-mounted to a 52-foot Dominion Power monopole at 1451 Chain Bridge Road.
“Even though the existing pole will be replaced with a taller pole, the County has a long-standing policy of treating replacement poles as a modification to an existing facility, rather than an intensification, expansion or redevelopment,” said Ulfelder.
But the recommended approval is only on an interim basis, he cautioned. “If the pole is removed for any reason, including as part of an effort to underground utilities in the McLean CBC, Verizon’s facilities would necessarily have to be removed as well.”
AT THE PUBLIC HEARING before the Planning Commission a week before, Maya Huber communicated the vision and efforts of the McLean Citizens Association, McLean Planning Committee and the McLean Revitalization Corporation to underground utilities in the McLean Business District.
“In that respect, the citizens groups are absolutely correct… I do not take lightly their concerns.” — John Ulfelder, Dranesville Planning Commissioner
“They all say the same thing. They say, ‘Look, our design standards do not call for streetscape with antennas mounted on power poles,’” said Huber.
“We just finished a 13-year effort to underground the utilities on Old Dominion Drive and on Chain Bridge Road. We don’t want another pole, it’s not part of our Comprehensive Plan. We’re trying to underground them as fast as we can,” said Huber, a McLean resident and former at-large Planning Commissioner.
The Comprehensive Plan calls for future development and redevelopment in the McLean CBC to place utilities underground.
“In that respect, the citizens groups are absolutely correct,” said Ulfelder.
“I do not take lightly their concerns that, if approved, this application will undermine their collective efforts to move utilities in the McLean Community Business Center underground.
“As Ms. Huber articulated, these organizations have worked hard on this effort for many years and – and have experienced some success in getting nearby utilities in the McLean CBC moved underground,” he said. “They do not support an application that they believe will detract from their ongoing effort to get the remaining above ground utilities finally put underground.”
Verizon Wireless verified at the public hearing in January that it would have to seek a new alternative if the pole comes down in the future.
THE LICENSE AGREEMENT on record, said Ulfelder, “plainly requires Verizon to remove its facilities should Dominion, in its sole discretion, ever remove its pole for any reason. It also makes clear that Verizon has no property interest in the pole. As such, Verizon has no legal right in the pole’s continued existence at this location, it cannot hinder any future effort to remove the pole or underground the utilities currently supported by the pole.”