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Two Towers, One Town

A look at the approved and proposed towers in Vienna

Two schools in Vienna could have cell towers on their property by this spring if the Fairfax County Planning Commission approves an application for a tower at Thoreau Middle School during a public hearing tonight.

Madison Tower

Last month, the commission approved a 105-foot cell tower at James Madison High School, which will replace an existing 89-foot light pole near the football stadium's press box. The plan would also require several equipment cabinets, which will be enclosed by a fence underneath the field's southern bleachers.

The initial application for the tower requested a 125-foot pole, but the pole was reduced to 105 feet so it falls below the surrounding canopy of trees, which commission members say will shield the pole from the view of nearby residences.

Both the Madison pole and the proposed Thoreau pole are more than 20 feet higher than other poles on FCPS property, which average between 85 and 87 feet,  Commissioner Frank de la Fe said at the Sept. 30 public hearing for the Madison pole.

Reston-based Milestone Communications, which would own and manage both towers, expects to receive building permit approval for the Madison tower within 45 days, said company spokesperson Cristian Hernandez, and would begin construction shortly afterward.

Madison High School will receive a one-time fee of $25,000 for installation of the pole and equipment for Clearwire, the only carrier currently planned to lease space on the pole. As a carrier, Clearwire will pay a monthly rent of $2,500. Sixty percent of that rent goes to Milestone Communications, which manages and maintains the pole. Forty percent—or $1,000—of that rent goes to FCPS  each month. Madison would receive 15 percent—$150 a month—of the rent received by FCPS.

If other carriers, like Sprint and Verizon, choose to lease space on the same pole, Madison would receive another one-time fee of $5,000 for each carrier, and the additional $150 per carrier each month.

At the Sept. 30 public hearing for the Madison pole, representatives from Milestone said the tower would reduce the number of dropped calls in the area, and will fill-in the coverage gap that exists in the area northwest of Maple Avenue, along Rambling, Roberts, Sunrise, Cary, Glengyle and Knoll Roads. The nearest residence is 231 feet away from the future location of the tower, the application says.

Thoreau Tower

The proposed Thoreau tower, which will be reviewed in a public hearing at tonight's planning commission meeting, would stand 115 feet tall, and 36 feet away from the closest residence, a church property on Amanda Place.

According to the application, the tower would be brown and decorated with artificial leaves and branches. Unlike the Madison tower, which only has one current carrier, there are four carriers on the application for Thoreau: AT&T,  T-Mobile, Verizon and Clearwire. These carriers would have a total 26 antennas, according to the application, which would be hidden behind the artificial foliage.

With the $25,000 one-time fee for the initial pole and carrier, and $5,000 for each subsequent carrier, Thoreau would receive $40,000 in one-time revenue. Afterward, it would receive about $600 in monthly rent ($150 per per carrier er month, based on similar calculations for Madison's tower).

Seven other locations for this cell tower were considered before Milestone drafted a proposal for Thoreau, according to the application. They included Good Counsel Church, Cedar Park Plaza, Christ Central Presbyterian Church, Navy Federal Credit Union, the Tapawingo Road Water Tower, Wesley United Methodist Church, and Dominion Virginia Power structures. These locations were either out of coverage areas, or the owners were not interested in leasing space, the application said.

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