Plans for West Point communication tower to continue

WEST POINT — The Town Council will hold a public hearing later this month on a proposed communication tower in West Point Industrial Park.

The Hampton Roads Sanitation District HRSD submitted a special-use permit application and site plan, which NB+C Engineering Services LLC prepared, for the 195-foot tower with a 4-foot lightning rod in December 2013.

The West Point Planning Commission held a public hearing on June 4 to discuss any comments or concerns about the project.

Tim Dennis, technical adviser representing HRSD and Milestone Communications, presented details and pictures of the proposed tower. He also provided balloon test results for the test conducted in April 2014.

Commissioner Mary M. Sykes expressed concerns about the aesthetics of the tower and suggested that the tower be disguised as a tree or other natural object. Dennis said a mono-pine tower would be impractical.

On behalf of HRSD, attorney Stephen Romine added that there was an advertised open house at which citizens could share concerns, but there were no attendees.

Dennis said a Federal Aviation Administration evaluation showed that the tower structure is not a safety hazard.

Commissioner James Brockwell asked Dennis if there was interest in the co-location leasing of tower space. Dennis said the design of the tower would allow wireless carriers to be co-users of the tower.

Jim Pyne, chief of small communities for HRSD, said the feedback the tower would provide to HRSD's monitoring and maintenance capabilities is significant.

The commission approved a motion 5-1-1 for recommendation for approval of the application to the Town Council.

Holly McGowan, the town's director of Community Development, said property owners adjacent to the tower and town residents have expressed some concerns. She noted that while camouflaging the tower has been a concern, there is currently a tree buffer around the proposed tower location.

Regarding why HRSD is not co-locating on an existing tower, McGowan explained, "They have property in the industrial park and it would be more beneficial to have their tower right there at their site."

McGowan believes the tower would be beneficial for West Point because HRSD is required to allow the town to co-locate space on the tower. "So if it's ever needed, we're able to jump on the tower," McGowan said.

Mayor Jim Hudson said HRSD will give a presentation during the public hearing on covering the communication tower's appearance, location, the importance of the tower and other pertinent information. The hearing will be held on Tuesday, July 29, at Town Hall.

Lundberg can be reached by phone at 804-885-0042.