Cellular Antennae Lease Draws Ire from Josephine Street

A standard lease agreement for antennae space on a Berryville Municipal Water Tank has sparked an outcry from the Josephine Street Community and brought opposition from Civic organizations and even the NAACP.


The ever growing dependency on cellular communications has driven providers to expand and shore up existing networks by installing more network nodes.   The high ground of municipal water towers presents an excellent opportunity for wireless providers to save money by not having to build a tower, while at the same time providing additional funds to the town through leasing agreements. This type of agreement is already familiar ground in the Town of Berryville. Last year the town renewed a lease with AT&T for antennae space on the tank next to the fairgrounds on the north side of town. Now Verizon has approached the town looking to pen a similar agreement for space on the water tank near Josephine Street. The idea has been discussed at two town council meeting and has been set for public hearing at the upcoming council meeting this week. But the idea that was rolling along smoothly hit a bump when the residents and institutions of Josephine Street became aware of the plans.


Josephine Street dates its origins back to 1871. Originally part of Clermont Plantation, the land was purchased by former slaves and other African-Americans in the area, creating the community of Josephine City, which is now Josephine Street in Berryville. Covering 37 acres, this area contains approximately 20 historic buildings. Today Josephine Street remains the cornerstone of   African American life in Berryville. As such the community has responded to what they perceive as a slight by the Town of Berryville for not including them in the discussions surrounding the use of the water tank. The tank that is being considered for lease lies near the end of Josephine Street. It , therefore a constant part of the landscape and the residents believe they should have a say in what the tower and any funds generated from a lease are used for. The town has now received several letters concerning the application for the cellular antennae lease and the residents and institutions of Josephine Street are united against the lease agreement.


To date the town has received communications from:

  • Ms. Dee Dee Liggins providing written comments to staff with safety and community concerns.
  • Easton McDonald of the Winchester Area NAACP concerning the proposed lease.
  • Mark Clarke of the Milton Valley Cemetery Association which is next to the water tank.
  • Dorothy Davis of The Clarke County African-American Cultural Center.


All of the contacts with the town present a unified opposition to the installation of cellular antennae on the Josephine Street water tank. Some questioned the health impacts of RF radiation. Others, like Easton McDonald from the NAACP questioned the impact on the community. In his letter to the town he stated:

The Josephine School Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is in active use as the sole facility commemorating the history of African-Americans in Clarke County. Substantial funds and effort have come from the community, the Town, the County, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and federal tax credits to make the Museum the prize that it is today. Because we cherish our historic neighborhood, we the undersigned oppose the placement of twelve 21st century antennas placed on the Josephine School Water Tower, which is located within sight of the Josephine School Museum. This would mar the historic vista and character of Josephine Street. It would also have a negative impact on neighborhood morale, suggesting that once more, as so many times in the past, Josephine Street is being treated as “less than important and historic” by the larger community. By having a facility which other neighborhoods do not want, the messaging is that the members and historically designated site of this community are somewhat less valuable. The preservation of this historic area for posterity, must be protected.
We ask that the Town of Berryville reconsider the lease agreement with Verizon. We the undersigned are opposed to having those 12 antennas placed on the Josephine Street Water Tower. Therefore, we respectfully ask that you refrain from “any actions” and “such action” that would violate this community expression of concern.


There is also some concern over the funds that will be generated. Ms. Liggins met with Town Manager Keith Dalton and said she thought the funds should go towards a Josephine Street Community Center. Mr. Dalton told Liggins that there have been no discussion of earmarks for the revenue generated from the lease but said it would probably go towards tank maintenance.


Frustrated after her meeting with town officials Josephine street resident Dee Dee Liggins said,”We will never come together as a community because there is no communication with the people.”


The issue is scheduled for Public Hearing Tuesday night at the monthly town Council meeting at the Town/ County Municipal center at 7:00PM.




  1. Naked Truth says:

    It’s all about the money.

  2. Fly Swatter says:

    A water tower isnt exactly pleasant to look at.

  3. Isn’t a public hearing just that – including them in discussions about the use of the water tower?

    So every neighborhood gets to decide how the nearest public faciility is to be used? Let’s break Berryville down into a dozen or more tax districts then, and those districts can fund all the public improvements and infrastructure costs that are specific to that area? I’m sure Berryville will welcome those first 4 water tank upkeep checks from the letter writers in the article.

    NIMBYism at it’s worst… wrapped in an all too convenient and familiar package.

  4. Richie Blick says:

    The tank is already there. What is the problem? Can you post a photo or sketch of what this antennae will look like on the water tank? I assume it will be like other tanks and have vertical bars mounted to it. or maybe tall antennas above it. If that is the case, WHY NOT? We need more information. I have Verizon cell phone service. I live in town and can only get one bar sometimes. And residents in this county DESPIRATELY want and NEED decent wireless internet or any high speed internet bc residential internet satellite (Wild Blue, DirecPC) is aweful!!! ***And the money should go to offset the extremely high water/sewer bills.*** Some small towns lease space and allow for the installation of antennas inside of church steeples & courthouse towers so at least we have the option with the existing water tanks. Besides, that tank does not belong to Josephine Street’s residents and they are not the only people to ‘have’ to look at it.

  5. The problem is that the foks in the Josephine Street area wanted to have their cake and eat it too. They wanted Town services, but they wanted to be separate from the town’s rules and restrictions and taxes. Someone needs to tell them that it doesn’t work that way. Then, when the local litigator files another of his frivilous lawsuits, we can all sit back and watch him yet again make another spectacle of himself.

  6. Lonnie Bishop says:

    The tank ain’t on any Josephine Street property; it is in the industrial park. So, for them to call it the “Josephine Street” tower is sadly laughable. It is a tank that serves Berryville, which – last time I checked – includes Josephine Street. Quit makin a mountain out of a molehill.

  7. Town res says:

    That tower must be visible from lots of places on the east side of town, and a public hearing is an opportunity for townspeople from any neighborhood to voice opinions. The water tower is already in place, and it’s clearly better to attach antennae to existing structures, than to erect truly unsightly freestanding towers. I drive past a water tower every day on my way to work that has numerous antennae on it, and I notice the tower – not the antennae. They are small in comparison to the water tower itsefl.

    As a VZW customer, and a supporter of increased high speed cell and internet access for all, I am strongly in favor of the project.. I would also be happy if Verizon wanted to add cell antennae to the water tower on the west side of town, and/or any other existing structures.

  8. One hopes that the town does not listen to these few, and moves forward in getting better communications services for all residents. For many people in our community our communications capabilities are dependent on cellular towers placed in other counties. It is time we brought services in to this county to serve our residents.

  9. Lets talk truths says:

    The glow in the dark house doesn’t bother anyone? Its reflection off the home next to it is blinding.
    The house with 30 chairs on the front lawn. Yup talk about having curb appeal.
    The abandon house with the broken down car on the front lawn? How many years has it looked like that?
    Do something about that!

    The NAACP, really are ya all kidding me? I don’t get it.

    As much as I dislike cell towers this one is needed.

    • Now, now. Bright colors are a reflection of African heritage. The large number of seats is for large community gatherings, again part of African heritage. The abandoned house and vehicle are part of American heritage.

  10. Fly Swatter says:

    “Can you hear me now?”

  11. Roscoe Evans says:

    So, what’s the deal? Every time the Josephine Street community organizes itself to make its position known (i.e. exercizes its constitutional rights), y’all going to come out like a bunch of yahoos, dredge up Mr. Liggins, and make the issue out to be “us vs. them?” How about looking at the costs and benefits of proposals like this, getting the input of all affected persons, and making decisions on the merits? Better yet, instead of taking a piecemeal approach to cellular service, how about asking the providers to come up with comprehensive plans to serve Clarke County that specify projected costs to consumers, rent paid for antennae leases, and the expected use of public revenue, before the county is carved up by a hodgepodge of these structures?

    I can’t believe that an article about a project that affected the residents of the Heritage or Echols developments would be subjected to half.baked comments like some of you guys have made. This stuff gets more tiresome with every passing day.

    • “…I can’t believe that an article about a project that affected the residents of the Heritage or Echols developments would be subjected to half.baked comments like some of you guys have made. This stuff gets more tiresome with every passing day.”

      Probably because those folks are more informed of what’s going on by attending the meetings. The statement Ms. Liggins made about directing the rent money collected from the cell tower being devoted entirely to the Josephine Street community is divisive. Ms. Liggins is making it an “us vs. them” issue. The water tower is in the industrial park and is clearly visible. Adding cell phone antennae to a large EXISTING structure is cost-effective for both the area and the company. Berryville receives regular lease payments and more land does not have to be utilized for the antennae. AT&T saves money by not having to purchase land for another tower. Everybody wins. Besides, the antennae are miniscule when compared to the size of a water tower.

  12. wow indeed says:


    It is because every time these same folks have an issue with anyone over anything they bring the NAACP into it and make it about race. There HAVE BEEN public hearings for ANYONE to attend. This is about another water tower with cell antennas on it. Like someone else said, if you don’t mind the water tower, then what is the big deal with a few antennas on top? Really? It is not something one would typically expect the NAACP to be involved in. Aren’t they a civil rights organization?

    People now days just want everything to be about them, and that seems to be the case with this.

  13. Lets talk truths says:

    “There is also some concern over the funds that will be generated. Ms. Liggins met with Town Manager Keith Dalton and said she thought the funds should go towards a Josephine Street Community Center.”

    Mrs. Liggins What ‘if’ there was funding wouldn’t you want it to go towards restoring all those historical homes before they fall down? Home grants stuff along those lines.

    What brought you to the conclusion this what your Community needed?
    I’d like to hear from all of your supporters.

  14. no way in this world says:

    I drove down Josephine Street today and at first could not even locate Josephine Street’s water tower. After a return drive I found it, way back in another neighborhood/industrial park, not even visible but from a few lots. And it is light-sky colored so it is hard to see. It is not even near Josephine Street or accessible by that street. It seems that Liggins family again wants something for nothing. It is abundantly clear there is little “pride in ownership” on that “historic” street. No doubt they will sue. Just because something is old does NOT mean it is worthy of salvage. If it were so special the proud residents would make that street sparkle. I am surprised the city has not ordered demolition of many of the homes there. Seriously, that is just ashamed. And highly dangerous. Probably have squatters in most of them, no electricity in many, and it will end up killing someone by falling in or being set afire by someone trying to stay warm. And shameful on it’s residents for letting it get that way. Shame on them! It is 2011! There are several nice small homes on the street, and I feel sorry for them because they have to look at the rest. The vast majority are blighted. No way in this world should Berryville give that community one cent on its own. Mainly because the tower is NOT in their neighborhood and you can’t even see it. It is even visible from East Main Street in Berryville and from the farms along 340 South. Give the proceeds to utilities to reduce the bills.

    • Lets talk truths says:

      You mentioned possible squatters, in the last historical house on the right before the museum driveway. There’s a stack of firewood neatly piled, the amount of it goes up and down, some days its covered and some its not.
      It is possible that the residents store their wood there but thats highly unlikely/abnormal.

      I suggest that everyone take a drive thru Josephine St. and take a good look around, it is interesting.

      Has anyone ever heard of any fundraisers for that area?

      Thank you Mrs. Liggins for bringing Josephine St. to our attention.

  15. no way in this world says:

    The NAACP wiggling themselves into this debate will only fuel some peoples distaste for that organization. Some feel it is purely racist dictated by ones skin color. They truly have no place in this particular debate of antennae on an existing water tower.

  16. Bernice Mayer says:

    Several people have touched on good points here. It is not an isolated case where one small section of a town or city makes an attempt to decide the future of things with no consideration other than themselves. The very fact the NAACP was even mentioned stresses this and just goes to show how right the other comments are about it quickly turns to a we/they thing. When will people just move forward and quite hiding behind that NAACP apron like a bunch of little kids. Something happens to a white man and if it is not sex, politics or money then it is a non-issue. Somethiing happens to a black man and if it is not racial, religious it is a non event. What is wrong with all of us. Not to sound like old Rodney but seriously, I dont believe there are too many white people still living that had anything to do with those caveman days. Forget about those idiots on the soap boxes yelling opression and poor me and grow up. Seems some folks just dont think. Do a little homework about Abe Lincoln and the Union and what it was all about. You cannot build a future living in the past.
    PS I am an 81 year young black female that grew up in the Richmond area and now in DC.

  17. justinterested says:

    I admire the work that has gone into preserving the historical Josephine School Museum.That took a huge community effort and for that the people involved should be applauded. Now,as to the cell antennaes that would be connected to a water tower that services the East end of Main St and that includes Josephine St. (which last I heard was a part of Berryville and not a seperate township) should be a non issue regarding the historic district. If the water tower is not directly on the historical district land then why does the NAACP need to be involved. I never heard that cell towers or antennaes were a racial subject. I too drove down Josephine St. to see where it would disfigure the historical areas and honestly could not visualize any deterant problems. To be fair here I have not seen a picture or a drawing of the antennaes but I have certainly seen them elsewhere. If the Josephine St historical society wishes to keep the memories alive of this community then it appears there is a lot of work to be done regarding certain homes along the street. Other regards here that need to be addressed is I bet many people who live in that area have cell phones. I would think that they would want the best service for their cells and faster internet. But if this is just another litagation move that waste all of our taxpayers money than find a more appropriate project.