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Conditional use permit approved for new Verizon cell tower in Powhatan

Conditional use permit approved for new Verizon cell tower in Powhatan

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POWHATAN – The Powhatan County Board of Supervisors last week unanimously approved a conditional use permit (CUP) to allow a telecommunications tower up to 200 feet tall to be built in southeastern Powhatan.

During its meeting on Monday, Aug. 24, the board discussed and ultimately approved the CUP requested by Cellco Partnership doing business as Verizon Wireless at a property in the 3000 block of Moyer Road. The property, which is zoned Agricultural-10, consists of 148.30 acres of land located on the south side of Moyer Road between Timber Trace Road and Pineview Drive.

The proposed telecommunications tower will be located within a fenced-in gravel compound (2,500 square feet) located on a portion of the property (10,000 square feet) that will be leased by the applicant.

No one spoke at the public hearing held on this case, and afterward the discussion turned not to the tower itself but what would go on it. The county had been in negotiation with the applicant to possibly allow Powhatan to co-locate on the tower with public safety equipment, hopefully in the top 20 feet.

Some of the board members wanted to see that agreement formalized before granting the CUP, but it was pointed out a few times that state law says a locality cannot deny a request based on their willingness to provide anything outside of the commercially ordinary cycle of business.

Mark Kronenthal, counsel for Verizon, said the cell phone provider had agreed to provide the public safety space on the tower at no cost to the county. But he said a letter of intent from the company without the board’s approval of a CUP “would not be appropriate, it would not be commercially ordinary, it would be an imposition in state law of a business term in a zoning matter.”

While some board members seemed leery of moving forward without a forward agreement, county attorney Tom Lacheney said he believed that Kronenthal, as Verizon’s agent, was binding the company with his verbal agreement and he didn’t see a problem moving forward.

Supervisor Larry Nordvig, who represents District 2, pointed out that there were a couple of neighbors who didn’t like the idea of seeing a tower out their windows, there was no real opposition in District 2 to the project that he heard about. The board then moved forward and passed the CUP application unanimously.

Other business handled during the meeting included:

* The board unanimously voted to amend the fiscal year (FY) 2021 Powhatan County Operating Budget by budgeting and appropriating $2,587,023 in the second half of the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 in the grants funds and $233,081.66 in CARES Act funds for schools. This revenue will be used specifically for the COVID-19 related expenditures.

New county administrator Ned Smither said that the county has currently obligated or spent approximately $2 million of qualified CARES Act costs, including grants for local businesses and nonprofit organizations. The county has an additional list of projects to review totaling $1.8 million, leaving $1.36 million for other projects as they arise.

“Uncertainty remains as an issue over the next four months, particularly with our school system and local government and how COVID-related topics can be applied,” he said.

Karin Carmack, District 5, asked if the county has considered using any of the CARES Act funds for broadband.

Smither said it has been considered, but staff is currently reaching out to verify that the funds can be used in certain ways to help the broadband situation in the county. The key areas where it might qualify would involve access for students and telemedicine. CARES Act funds have to be used by Dec. 31, 2020, which is another consideration.

The discussion continued for several minutes on how this could work for the county and possibly improve broadband access for some residents, even if it is only for a small section of the community.

While nothing besides the overall appropriation of the funds was approved, several supervisors expressed a willingness to pursue the topic of allowing some of the funds to be used for broadband.

Smither also commended emergency management coordinator Curt Nellis and finance director Charla Schubert for making sure the CARES Act funds are managed properly.

Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.

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