Revolt Over Cellphone Tower

Perhaps this
Perhaps this "silo" is filled with minutes: It's a Sprint Nextel telecommunications tower near Haymarket. The company would like to place a similar silo tower in rural western Loudoun County, but residents oppose it. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

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By Bill Brubaker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 20, 2007

And there goes the neighborhood. Fast!

That's how folks around the village of Philomont in rural western Loudoun County view Sprint Nextel Corp.'s proposal to build a 106-foot cellular tower near their homes.

"The monstrosity will be in plain view of my house," said Tim Hubbard, one of 20 neighbors who spoke against the tower at a county Planning Commission hearing late Monday.

The structure would not look like a cell tower, however. It would look like a silo.

In a push to expand their networks and appease some jurisdictions, cellphone companies are disguising towers as trees, flagpoles and -- in rural communities -- silos.

"This is a really creative solution by Sprint and would be the first stealth silo site in Loudoun County," Sprint Nextel spokeswoman Laura Porter said in an e-mail. "Sprint has seven similar sites in Northern Virginia."

But nothing less than a neighborhood revolt unfolded at the hearing in Loudoun, where the Planning Commission voted 7 to 0 to send Sprint Nextel's proposal back for more study and debate.

In doing so, the commission sidestepped the advice of its staff members, who had recommended that the proposal be sent straight to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

"I think the residents really nailed this," the commission's vice chairwoman, Teresa White Whitmore (Potomac), said shortly before the hearing ended at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. " . . . I just think [the tower] is totally not in keeping with the neighborhood."

Sprint Nextel has three silo towers in Fauquier County, three in Rappahannock County and one in Prince William County. The towers are 80 to 108 feet tall.

If Monday's hearing is any indication, winning approval in Loudoun will take some doing.

"It's visually obscene," said Ken Rothschild, who lives near the proposed site.


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