Board OKs microwave tower

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously at its regular June meeting to approve a special use permit allowing Dominion Energy to build an unmanned microwave tower on Merriman Shop Road in Pamplin.

The vote followed a public hearing on the matter during which no one from the public spoke.

Prior to the hearing, Prince Edward County Administrator Wade Bartlett provided a summary of the issue at hand.

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“The county received a special use permit application from Dominion Energy to permit the construction of an unmanned microwave tower to serve as part of the telecommunications network for Dominion,” Bartlett said at the meeting. “The proposed tower would be located at 341 (Merriman Shop) Road on a parcel owned by Virginia Electric and Power (Company), identified as Tax Map Parcel 043-A-37.”

He noted that this is in an A1, Agricultural Conservation District.

“The proposed tower will be 235 feet in height and will be lit as required by the (Federal Aviation Administration) FAA with one top flashing beacon and flashing beacons at the tower’s midpoint,” he said. “The tower will be located within the existing fenced (Pamplin) substation. Dominion will provide the county co-location opportunities without compensation for emergency services equipment if we so requested it in the future.

“There is an existing tower located adjacent to the property, but due to security reasons, it’s not suitable for Dominion Energy to collocate on,” he continued. “The proposed tower will be for Dominion Energy’s communication network to monitor, control and ensure the security and safety of the substation.”

Bartlett then highlighted how the Prince Edward County Board of Zoning Appeals conducted a public hearing April 30 and granted a variance to allow the tower to exceed the 199-foot height limitation because of the topography of the site.

“The planning commission then conducted a public hearing later that same day, and no one spoke in opposition to the (special use permit) request,” he said.

He added that the planning commission recommended forwarding the matter to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

“Staff does not have any concerns of negative impacts on the surrounding properties associated with the request, and we received no additional comments from the public either for or against the proposal,” he said.

Dominion Energy representatives Sarah Perkinson and John Mulligan answered questions about the tower. They confirmed the final height would be 235 feet, which includes a 5-foot lightning rod.

“We do allow for the county to put their communications on the tower provided that it meets the qualifications for you to use for your emergency services, though it would not be allowed for public use such as a Verizon or Comcast for those security reasons,” Perkinson said.

Mulligan confirmed the tower would be free standing.

When the question was raised about whether or not the county is currently utilizing any of Dominion Energy’s towers, Assistant County Administrator Sarah Elam Puckett provided the answer.

“The sheriff’s department radio equipment is currently on the Dominion tower in Farmville, and they go live on Thursday with their new communications system, and we’ll find out where the holes are,” she said. “And we’ll be looking forward to talking to Dominion about their western tower and (their) ACP eastern tower, because both of those may be quite geographically advantageous to the build-out of the sheriff’s office communications system.”