Wireless Whac-a-Pole in McLean?

Wireless Whac-a-Pole in McLean?

Dranesville Planning Commissioner John Ulfelder wanted Verizon Wireless to understand McLean’s efforts to eliminate utility poles in McLean’s Business District.

“Is Verizon aware that perhaps within a year, they’ll have to tear it down?” — John Ulfelder, Planning Commissioner

Verizon Wireless proposed two panel antennas in a “stealth canister” flush-mounted to a 52-foot monopole at 1451 Chain Bridge Road.

“Is Verizon aware that perhaps within a year, they’ll have to tear it down?” said Ulfelder at the Planning Commission’s public hearing on Thursday, Jan. 26.

“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 Maya Huber, a McLean resident and former at-large Planning Commissioner.

“If you approve this power pole tonight, it becomes a game of ‘Whac-a-Mole’ for McLean,” Huber told the 12 members of Fairfax County’s Planning Commission. “We bury the utility pole on Old Dominion Drive, we bury them on Chain Bridge Road, and they pop-up here, much higher and taller than what was here before.”

Huber called utility poles “streetscape clutter” that McLean doesn’t want and doesn’t need. “We are working diligently to remove it.”

Ulfelder deferred the Planning Commission's decision only hearing until Feb. 1, 2017.

“If you approve this power pole tonight, it becomes a game of ‘Whac-a-Mole’ for McLean.” — Maya Huber, McLean

“I think this hearing has given me, anyway, some – lots of food for thought in connection with this application,” said Ulfelder. “And I think that we could take a week and we would still be within the – the drop-dead date for approval or action on the application.”

Ulfelder made sure Verizon understood that the pole, if approved, would be “strictly interim.”

“In other words, Dominion has control over the pole. When the decision is made to go underground with the utility pole that Verizon has no choice, no right to object,” he said.

A representative from Verizon Wireless said she understands the parameters.

“Data growth has exploded over the last few years, as you are aware,” said engineer Mike Fischer, a consultant to Verizon Wireless.

“Capacity has become a significant issue,” said the Verizon representative. “There is a very very high density of subscribers in this area.”

But “more data, faster data,” is not what is needed, testified a McLean psychologist. She cited some of her cases, where McLean teenagers have threatened their parents with knives and drills over having their use of devices like tablets and phones restricted.

She asked the Planning Commission why it is up to citizens to bring research on human health concerns and physical impacts of technology to the table.

According to Planning Commission documents:

The replacement wooden pole will reach a height of 52 feet from grade. The maximum extent of the antenna enclosure on the top of the pole will be 55 feet from grade. The existing distribution pole has a height of 39 feet from grade.

“The McLean CBC is a large community shopping, service and residential area approximately 230 acres in size centered at the intersection of Chain Bridge Road and Old Dominion Drive,” according to Planning documents.

Huber referenced letters from McLean Citizens Association, McLean Planning Committee and the McLean Revitalization Corporation.

“They all say the same thing. They say, ‘Look, our design standards do not call for streetscape with antennas mounted on power poles,’” she said.