Board Unites After Public Hearings

Published 4:00 pm Tuesday, December 11, 2012

CUMBERLAND – The Cumberland Board of Supervisors voted as one during the public hearing portion of November's meeting, approving a conditional use permit for a monopole telecommunication tower in northern Cumberland, two amendments to County zoning code and denying tax-exemption to Northfield Ministries.


There were many knowing smiles during the discussion of a monopole cell tower in northern Cumberland County, as supervisors and the public commented on the difficulty of finding a carrier with good coverage in Cumberland.

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The tower is slated to be located near Route 45 off Jenkins Ridge Road. The tower will be 195 feet tall and will not need to be lighted. According to simulations, the tower will have limited visual impact along Route 45 and Jenkins Ridge Road.

The proposal had already been discussed by the Planning Commission, which unanimously recommended the board approve it.

Al Doss, vice-president of development of National Communications Towers, the company requesting the permit, gave a short presentation during the November board meeting. He stated that National Communications Towers already owns 37 towers in Virginia. Their towers usually host three carriers per-tower, which is above industrial average. He also stated that they do not build towers speculatively, but only after obtaining a signed lease from carriers.

The tower sight is expected to connect service between two existing towers, one to the north and the other to the south, eliminating dropped calls with a particular carrier along that portion of Route 45.

Visibility studies and simulations were conducted from public highways; however, during public comment a property owner expressed concern about the tower's visibility from his private property.

Bryan Hamlet, who owns two plots of land near the tower site, addressed the board during the public hearing. He stated that the tower would be visible from most of his property.

Hamlet also wished to clarify that although most of the area is zoned for agricultural use, some neighboring properties on Jenkins Ridge Road have been zoned for a possible subdivision in the future.

An owner of one of the subdivision lots, he was concerned about building a home on the land himself or selling it in the future. He said he has a “pretty parcel” that is gently rolling; “having an eyesore just 700 feet away could limit my potential buyers. As if I were looking at buying that parcel- and the tower was already existing- I myself would not purchase it.”

Hamlet also shared his own journey through several carriers before finally settling on a particular carrier because it was the only one with service on his land. However, he pointed out that because that carrier has not yet signed a lease with National Communications Towers, there is no guarantee that the tower will equal better coverage in the area.

The carrier was listed as a possible tenant on the tower.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Bret Schardein reported that neighboring property owners had been contacted. Also, staff spoke with three property owners via phone. According to his report, “none had concerns about the tower, but several noted the poor cell phone and internet service currently in the area.”

After a motion by Parker Wheeler, District Five, the board unanimously approved the conditional use permit.

National Communications Towers has already contacted carriers regarding its plans to build the tower. High-speed internet service could also be provided from the tower. Doss stated that one location on the tower would be left rent-free for Cumberland County's use.

National Communications Towers has also submitted a conditional use permit request for another monopole telecommunication tower to be located near Route 45 close to the Raines Tavern area of southern Cumberland. The board voted unanimously to refer the new application to the Planning Commission for their review and scheduled a public hearing to occur during their February meeting.

Code Amendments

The board amended the County code to allow childcare centers and auctions in all business districts.

The primary goal of the two code amendments is to make the code more consistent and accommodate future business development by eliminating the need to apply for a conditional use permit, according to the staff report submitted by Schardein.

Before the amendments, childcare centers were only by-right use in B-1 Business and R-2 Rural Residential zoned properties. A conditional use permit request was required for B-2 and B-3 Business zoned properties.

Schardein clarified that the state still has requirements regarding the safety of children.

Adjusting the County code would simply make it easier for businesses to meet zoning requirements for the location of their business.

Auctions had not been listed as a use for any business districts in the county. Typically, if a use is not mentioned, it is not allowed, according to Schardein. The amendment explicitly allows auctions in all three business districts.

Katrina Blankenship, owner of Plain and Simple Marketplace, has expressed an interest before the board to hold auctions in her new business in the future.

Schardein had received no public input on the proposed admits, besides the assumed support of Blankenship. The Planning Commission unanimously recommended both amendments.

There was no public comment during the public hearing on the code amendment.

Osl moved to approve both amendments and the motion passed unanimously.

Schardein also reported that the Planning Commission is in the process of looking over the entire county zoning code to make it more consistent and current. A final draft will be presented to the public for comment and will be brought before the board in January or February, according to Schardein.

Planning Director's Report

Schardein reported on the progress of the Comprehensive Plan update during the board's November meeting. He stated that about 40 citizens participated in the public forums, which Wheeler, a former planning commissioner, confirmed was a substantial increase from past participation.

Summary Of Economic Development

Director of Economic and Community Development Greg Baka, announced the opening of several new businesses in the county. An affordable tire store has been opened in the old Trading Post building and is very busy, according to Baka.

A BBQ restaurant, “The East Coast Rib and BBQ Company,” is slated to open in the old Kelly Jo's Restaurant in early 2013.

Parker Oil is upgrading the gas station located on the east side of Route 45 just north of the Appomattox River. New gasoline pumps and tanks, a convenience store and a laundromat are planned. There is also the possibility of a small mini-storage.

Baka's report states that because of its location within town limits, the Town of Farmville will be responsible for all “zoning, permitting, inspections and approvals.” However, Cumberland County will receive tax revenue from the site.

The ABC store is expected to be open before the end of the year.

Baka reported that the Route 60 waterline extension to the Community Center will be completed by December 21. Construction will then begin on Fleming Road after engineering plans are completed.

The Industrial Park/Poor House Road extension should be completed by mid-December, as well, according to Baka. The next steps for the industrial park will include wetlands permitting and construction of a second road that will provide east-west access to the industrial park.