AT&T is searching for alternative ways to provide enhanced cell phone coverage in the Mount Vernon area after local residents protested the construction of a new cell phone tower at Lamond Park.
Julie Cline, a Fairfax County Park Authority branch manager, said AT&T submitted a request to the park authority for a telecommunications license to construct the tower. The park authority notified AT&T around September that it could not approve the application for construction of the tower, Cline said.
“We just couldn’t quite find a location that met that criteria,” she said.
AT&T had also submitted an application to build the tower with the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning. Richard Lambert Jr., a planner with the department, said the facilities branch received the application June 1 of this year. The application for the tower, which could have been 128 feet, was withdrawn on Nov. 2, he said.
Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland said AT&T had planned to construct the tower at the park’s highest point, near a historic house.
“Clearly, that would have been problematic for the community, as well as the abutting neighbors, who would have been able to see the proposed tower,” Hyland said. “They did look at other parts on that site, but the bottom line is the community was unanimous in its opposition to having a cell tower located anywhere on the property.”
Eleanor Quigley of Wellington Heights was one community member opposed to the new tower. Quigley, an advocate for the park for many years, is also park and tree commissioner for the Mount Vernon District.
“There was a lot of controversy,” she said. “That area of the park, the high point of the park, is also close to several homes in Villamay, so there was a great deal of concern.”
Quigley said she supported expanded cell phone coverage in the area but believed a better, alternate method is the distributed antenna system, in which small antennas are placed upon existing utility poles to lessen the disruption to the neighborhood.
"We definitely need better cell phone coverage," Quigley said. "Do we want cell phone telecommunications facilities in a park? I don’t think so. Do we want them in our neighborhood? I don’t think so."
There are currently six cell phone towers at other Fairfax County parks and one planned for construction at George Washington RECenter, said Cline with the park authority.
In a statement concerning Lamond Park, an AT&T spokeswoman said, "AT&T wants to provide our customers and communities with the wireless coverage they want and need. We are evaluating next steps."