Council to vote on 5G cell facilities, Virginia Paving Company at public hearing

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By Cody Mello-Klein | [email protected]

City council is set to vote on several projects that aim to address the city’s technological and developmental needs at Saturday’s public hearing.

Members of council are considering five-year agreements with two major telecommunications companies – Verizon and AT&T – to permit the installation of small cell facilities on telephone or light poles that have been approved by the city.

The cell facilities are meant to provide additional wireless coverage for the existing 4G network and prepare the city for the eventual deployment of 5G coverage, Mayor Justin Wilson said.

The agreement that goes before council on Saturday was designed to create enforceable standards and expedite deployment of new technology, after the Federal Communications Commission crafted new regulations in October 2018 that restricted local governments’ ability to regulate 5G infrastructure.

“We never like to be the neighborhood in which development has increased in recent years pre-empted,” Wilson said. “… The staff has worked with AT&T and Verizon over the last year and they brought it to our [Board of Architectural Review] and other community meetings to really work on coming up with standards that everyone can live with and expedite deployment.”

Wilson said the five-year agreements would allow the city to set up infrastructure that could keep the city up to date with advances in telecommunications technology.

“I think we want to see new technology deployed too,” Wilson said. “The last thing we want is to be left behind again on broadband deployment. This is the next step to that.”

Another major item on Saturday’s docket is a review of a previously approved special use permit for a Virginia Paving Company asphalt plant on Courtney Avenue.

City staff is bringing the company’s SUP before council to evaluate whether the plant’s presence in Eisenhower West is still consistent with the neighborhood’s small area plan and future development, according to the staff presentation.

The plant, which has operated at the site since 1960, had an SUP amendment approval in 2006 for overnight hours that included dozens of new conditions to mitigate noise, odors and air pollutants. One condition requires any future SUP reviews to take into account land-use compatibility, according to the staff presentation.

When the Eisenhower West SAP was adopted in 2015, staff reconsidered the plant’s compatibility with the neighborhood, in which development has increased in recent years.

“They said that basically when the Eisenhower West Plan is adopted, there’s a seven-year clock that begins ticking at that point and, at the conclusion of that seven years, Virginia Paving has to go away,” Wilson said.

There has been uncertainty about when the clock would start ticking. Staff and the planning commission agree the plant is inconsistent with both the SAP and future development plans, but the former is recommending the plant close in November 2022 and the latter is recommending it close on Jan. 1, 2027, accord- ing to the staff report.

“We are hopeful that the City will vote consistently with the unanimous Planning [Commission] vote recommending that the asphalt plant remain in operation for at least the next seven years from December 31, 2019,” Garrett Simmons, media representative for VPC, said in an emailed statement.

“I think the question for the council is: Do you go with the staff recommendation, which would probably pick a fight which may end up being legal, or do you go with what the applicant agreed to, the planning commission is OK with and, quite honestly, a fair number of people in the community have actually said they’re fine with that timeline too?” Wilson said.

In addition to small cell facility installation and VPC’s presence in the city, council will also vote on two parking reductions, one for a single-family dwelling on North Washington Street and another for a King Street apartment hotel.

The public hearing is set for Saturday at 9:30 a.m. in council chambers.

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