Your Views: 5G and our historic neighborhoods

Your Views: 5G and our historic neighborhoods

To the editor:

I was recently greeted with a “Public Notice” sign on the telephone pole just outside the front door of the historic property I own in the 200 block of North Patrick Street. You know the type of sign where when you see it, your heart drops because you know Big Brother is likely proposing a change in your immediate vicinity and normally not for the better.

Let’s face it, not many of us living in historic Alexandria like change, especially since many of us live in historic houses and neighborhoods for the very reason they have not changed.

This particular public notice sign was a request from Verizon to install a 5G “small cell site” on top of the telephone pole located a few feet from my property within the site-lines of the home’s roof.

Why is this important? After years of rehab projects on this home and following Board of Architectural Review guidelines, most recently a new in-kind slate roof to maintain historical significance and site-lines, BAR staff is willing to follow the lead of Verizon – without any discussion?

I looked up the docket for the BAR hearing to find this item was on the consent calendar, meaning the BAR staff had given this cell site its blessing without discussion unless a BAR board member or yours truly requested it be taken off the consent docket and placed for a hearing in front of the full BAR board. The current docket date is now Jan. 6, 2021 for those interested.

The property in question was built in 1886, was occupied by the mayor of Alexandria from 1903 to 1912 and also served as the medical office for the first Black physician in the City of Alexandria with rights to work at the Alexandria Hospital.

This home is significant in both Alexandria history and African-American history. To ruin the grandness of this house with a 5G tower would be a tragedy. The real question I started to ask myself is, “Does the BAR and staff have a plan to protect our historic neighborhoods from future technology, such as 5G, where Verizon has the right to access public utility poles and the only thing standing in their way, per Code of Virginia 15.2-2306, is the BAR?”

Has Verizon made it clear what their overall strategy is with these sites in Old Town and Alexandria?

I am asking the BAR to protect our neighborhoods and create a formal plan to deal with these 5G sites. These sites are strictly for penetration purposes in order to reach areas where the existing sites do not cover or are estimated will not cover on higher frequencies inherent to 5G. These sites are an overlay to the existing system, and more will be needed by Verizon if they want uniform coverage in Old Town.

Let’s get a plan! Why not start with pole placements in an alleyway or the corner of alleyways so they are consistent and uniform throughout the town instead of “infilling” where Verizon chooses the site? In my case, simply moving the site north by 50 feet to the pole on the corner of North Patrick and the alley would help maintain site lines in our neighborhood. Even better would be in the alley.

-Craig Miller, Alexandria