Supervisors Approve Internet Towers

The Clarke County Board of Supervisors passed four zoning ordinance amendments at a Tuesday night hearing. The zoning changes cover issues ranging from increased access to wireless internet to digital site plans. Although the Supervisors held the session at 6:30pm, only two members of the public were in attendance.

Internet Access Towers

Last night the Supervisors approved the use of private telecommunications towers up to eighty feet tall. The tower height is intended to allow homeowners to place an antenna receiver at a height above the tree canopy in order gain access to signals from wireless internet providers. The new ordinance will allow shared internet access through a single antenna by clusters of homeowners and includes property line setback restrictions to create a safe “fall zone” in the event of a toppled tower. However, tower owners are prohibited from commercial uses such as reselling services associated with the tower at a profit.

Throughout the design, discussion and final approval of the tower ordinance, elected officials and county administrators have emphasized the importance of improving business access to wireless internet throughout the community. While nothing in the ordinance prevents new tower construction to support wireless access by individual homeowners, the $5K – $10k expected cost of new tower construction may still be out of reach for individual homeowners. However, affordable technology that allows clusters of homeowners to share a wireless internet connection may make the solution feasible for cooperative groups of neighbors.

Building Code Change

Recent changes in the International Building Code used by Clarke County and other local Virginia jurisdictions has increased the minimum area of structures not requiring a building permit from 150 square feet to 200 square feet. The same minimum threshold is also used in allowing limited types of recreational structures in the 100-year flood plain. The supervisors increased the size of such flood plain structures to 200 square feet.      

Certificate of Appropriateness

Construction or major alterations in a Historic Overlay District require a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Preservation Commission. The Supervisors made changes to the definition of “major alteration” to include any work requiring a building permit or any repair or replacement of roofs or windows. Application for a Certificate of Appropriateness must be responded to within 60 days by the Preservation Commission.

Site Plan Submissions

The Supervisors approved a requirement that all future site plans be submitted digitally to the County. County staff made the recommendation based on the time consuming and costly effort needed to handle large scale drawings and multiple technical specifications associated with the site plans.      

Comments

  1. Tony Parrott says:

    “However, tower owners are prohibited from commercial uses such as reselling services associated with the tower at a profit.”
    So why would you put up a tower if you can’t make a profit?

  2. Richie Blick says:

    Thankfully one step ahead. Many more steps to go to get Clarke up to the competitiveness of neighboring counties. What about properties in a low spot/bottom? How can 80′ be enough all the time. I hope an variance can be requested and any speed limitations are updated and removed. Does anyone have updates from any private service providers like what is in Frederick and Loudoun? Competition is good for the citizens. The county really should consider placing up-to-date information on it’s web site giving locals and people looking to move here accurate high-speed internet information and mapping of dead zones. It seems to be a guessing game and high-speed is a necessity of modern day life for a majority of families. Thanks for reporting this CDN!

  3. Definitely need updated website. The 6:30 session was not posted, perhaps that is why only 2 citizens were present.

  4. This will not help. As a contractor installing wireless Internet services for Roadstar Wireless Internet in Western Loudoun County, the average tree height of 75′ here in Clarke County will not work with the 80′ height restriction. To answer Tony Parrot’s question “So why would you put up a tower if you can’t make a profit?”, simply put They Won’t!. I have spoken to countless homeowners in the past 12 years and no one wants a tower on their property without some sort of monetary compensation.

    The Board of Supervisors states “While nothing in the ordinance prevents new tower construction to support wireless access by individual homeowners, the $5K – $10k expected cost of new tower construction may still be out of reach for individual homeowners. However, affordable technology that allows clusters of homeowners to share a wireless internet connection may make the solution feasible for cooperative groups of neighbors.”

    Cooperative group of neighbors? No one will cooperate to invest $2000 or more each for a tower in this economy, good or bad. As for a $5-$10K cost of a new tower construction? Try $15-$20 as a more realistic cost. This does not include the monthly wireless Internet access service costs or the equipment and installation needed at each residence. A profit has to be allowed to cover these costs.

    I have researched every option under the sun since I moved to Clarke County 12 years ago.
    Wireless Internet is the only viable resolution based on the terrain and forests in our area at this time. They need to raise the height restriction to 100′ and allow a profit to be made, otherwise this new zoning rule is worthless.