American Towers Corporation (ATC) plans to build a 256-foot cell tower atop Droop Mountain. The proposed location is approximately 1,800 feet south of the south entrance to Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park and 200 feet west of Route 219.
In ATC’s application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the company states that Federal Aviation Administration Style E lighting would be installed on the tower. Style E lighting includes a dual white and red flashing strobe light on top of the tower and three red marker lights on the side of the tower.
Members of the public voiced their opinions about the tower during Tuesday evening’s Pocahontas County Commission meeting, and public sentiment was largely in favor of the tower. Four Droop Mountain residents, including tower site landowner Wilbur Walton, spoke in favor of the project.
Droop Mountain resident Susan Kershner spoke against the proposal, telling commissioners that the tower would ruin the viewshed from her home and from the nearby state park.
“I’m not against cell service in any way and I know we need cell service,” she said. “But I don’t think you should go to the observation tower at Droop Park to look at the scenery and be able to see a cell tower, and you will be able to see this cell tower. Also, there will be the lights at night and I’m also worried about my property values.”
Burns Motor Freight president Fred Burns, Jr. spoke in favor of the project.
“In our business, technology keeps our business moving,” he said. “Communicating is very important to our people. On our trucks, we have collision avoidance, lane departure, rollover protection, line spot detection – all this technology. Pocahontas County is one of the few counties that we can’t take full advantage of it”
“More importantly, if we’re going to see growth in Pocahontas County, we’re going to need communications,” Burns added.
Hillsboro resident Beth Little wrote to the commission, recommending multiple, shorter towers that would not require high flashing lights. Little also wrote to the FCC, stating, “There are smaller towers in nearby towns and locations that provide adequate service without the need for high flashing strobes.”
Commissioners were unanimous in their support for the tower proposal.
“I’d just like to say I think it’s a great project and I think it’s a needed project,” said Commissioner Jamie Walker.
“I’d like to see cell phone coverage along Route 219 from one county to another,” said Commissioner David Fleming, who participated via teleconference.
“I feel, personally, that it’s far enough away from the park that there won’t be a problem with that,” said Commissioner William Beard. “I can look back, so many years ago, when there was a group of people that opposed the windmills and said it would devalue your property. Well, has that happened? It hasn’t happened and life goes on.”
Due to the presence of the National Radio Quiet Zone in Pocahontas County, radio interference with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) would be unlawful. Fleming said the NRAO had received an application for operation of the cell tower from ATC.
Droop Mountain Battlefield is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is currently reviewing the project and its impact on the Civil War battlefield. The commission agreed to send a letter to SHPO, stating its support for the cell tower project.
NPW gets conditional contribution
Rachel Taylor, vice-president of Northern Pocahontas Wellness (NPW), requested a contribution of $10,000 for a planned fitness facility with indoor pool in Green Bank. NPW, which has applied for 501c(3) non-profit status, currently operates a small fitness center in an annex building at Green Bank Elementary/Middle School.
“We distributed over 100 community surveys at different fairs and festivals and events throughout the northern end of the county and compiled the data from those,” Taylor said. “Community interest was a pool.”
“It would be the only public pool in the county that would be open all-year, that would be able to provide lap-swimming, water aerobics, physical therapy services and things like that,” she added.
Taylor said the NRAO had donated two acres of land near the school for the project. She said a contribution from the commission would help pay for architectural plans, site preparation and land clearing. NPW has partnered with Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation for receipt of funds until it obtains 501c(3) status.
Taylor said NPW has been successful with other fund raising efforts, such as the Space Race Rumpus, which collected more than $6,000 for the project last year.
Commissioners praised the work that NPW has done in recent years and voted 2-1 to approve a $10,000 contribution, directly to NPW, pending the group’s 501c(3) approval. Fleming objected because he preferred making the contribution through Parks and Recreation.
In other business, the commission:
– Approved a $2,000 contribution for the Northern Pocahontas Food Pantry;
– Appointed Leslie Cain to the Dramas, Fairs and Festivals Board;
– Appointed Paul Marganian to the Free Libraries Board;
– Agreed to have East Fork Industrial Site coordinator John Simmons get an estimate on demolition and filling of above-ground tanks at the site.
– Approved a $33,000 funding request from the Board of Health; and
– Took no action on a $10,000 contribution request from the Farmer’s Market for a pavilion in Linwood.