Sperryville’s new steel tower is quite ‘white’

County asks builder ‘what it will take’ to repaint giant monopole

Balloons fly above two more proposed tower sites in Woodville and Scrabble

Suddenly not one, not two, but the possibility of three new 199-foot cell towers are the topic of considerable conversation — and consternation — in southern Rappahannock County.

One of the towers, a shiny light blue monopole that stands out markedly against a backdrop of Shenandoah National Park, was erected only last week in Sperryville by Arlington-based Community Wireless Structures (CWS) and already there are calls for county officials to have it repainted.

The same company wants to erect two lattice cell towers along the sparsely populated Sperryville Pike-Route 522 corridor — one hilltop site on Eldon Farms midway between Sperryville and Woodville, the other location four or so miles away in Scrabble. Both proposed sites are within close proximity to the scenic roadway.

“Obviously the Sperryville tower is up,” Rappahannock County Administrator Garrey W. Curry announced at Monday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting.

“I guess my question on the tower is it does not appear to me to be blue,” remarked Piedmont District Supervisor Christine Smith. “Is that the final color?”

Replied Curry, “Yeah, it’s Sky Blue.”

“It looks very Sky White,” opined Smith, to laughter from the audience.

Rappahannock Administrator Garrey W. Curry and Piedmont District Supervisor Christine Smith examine a map for one of two proposed cell towers along the Sperryville Pike. A red balloon above Curry’s right shoulder marks the site location. By John McCaslin

At which point Curry reminded the BOS that the county’s original approval of the steel tower allows for its color to be changed without holding any public hearings.

“I have opened the discussion with CWS as to how we would go about doing that,” the administrator revealed.

Based on an informal survey conducted by this newspaper during the past week, overwhelming community sentiment would have the giant tower painted either a dark brown or green to blend in with the Rappahannock landscape.

“Everything’s up for discussion,” Curry told the supervisors.

That said, painting a tall tower after it’s just gone up could prove to be a difficult and expensive proposition. It was the county that requested CWS paint the tower blue in the first place — to appease its closest neighbors on Woodward Road, who view the monopole looking east into the sky.

“I asked her what it will take to paint it,” Curry confirmed to the Rappahannock News, referring to CWS representative Hope McCreary.

McCreary, who was in Rappahannock County for Saturday’s two balloon tests, was asked how feasible it was to repaint the tower.

“I think anything’s possible, but it’s a lot more difficult of an undertaking, a lot more expensive of an undertaking,” she replied. “We suggested [originally] that it be galvanized steel. That is probably the best solution from all perspectives, because over time it dulls and typically fades from view. And there was a discussion at the hearing that light blue might be good from certain perspectives and brown-green might be good from others. It all depends where you’re looking at it.

“We do understand the significance — I understand it is a beautiful significant view,” insists cell tower developer Hope McCreary of building along the scenic Sperryville Pike. By John McCaslin

“There’s no perfect solution,” McCreary said. “The light blue I can tell you will dull and fade over time — it will not be as bright as it is right now, and that will help. Everything weathers.”

Unlike the solid monopole in Sperryville, the pair of towers proposed for Sperryville Pike would be of lattice design, each 199-feet tall. One foot higher and the Federal Aviation Administration would require they be lit at night.

Administrator Curry and Supervisor Smith, along with Rappahannock County Planning Commission Chairman Gary Light, were on hand Saturday morning to view the two balloon flights, each visible from what is arguably one of the more scenic stretches of roadway in Virginia and a gateway to Shenandoah Park.

Pink ribbons are tied to a tether flying a red balloon above a proposed Eldon Farms site for a cell tower. By John McCaslin
The hilltop view looking north from Eldon Farms along the Sperryville Pike where an Arlington-based company wants to build a 199-foot cell tower. A car traveling on the nearby road can be seen below By John McCaslin

Numerous residents arrived during the three-hour test period to gaze and comment about the red balloons, which rose 200 feet into cloudy skies. CWS described the flights as “an opportunity for the community to make a visual assessment of the proposed structure. We value your input, and hope that you will view the balloon(s) and reach out with any questions or feedback.”

There should be no shortage of that, particularly surrounding the Eldon Farms location, where one resident after another expressed dismay as the balloon floated overhead where Barrett Lane turns off 522. The location is within site of the popular 651-acre Thornton Hill Farm venue.

Briefing BOS members about the two locations, Curry reported that the one red balloon “was quite visible on Eldon Farms.”

“A large portion of that tower structure would be well above the tree line,” he said.

At the same time, Curry said the proposed tower site in Scrabble is “more naturally camouflaged to the terrain than Eldon Farms,” although that balloon could also be seen from the one mile stretch between Woodville and Scrabble.

“We do understand the significance — I understand it is a beautiful significant view,” McCreary told the News. “Our objective is to minimize the [impact], that’s always our objective, and balance that . . . with willing ground owners and where they’re able to place [the towers] on their property. There’s a lot of things that have to come together . . . Some areas are more difficult and challenging to find a solution for than others, and this is certainly one of those because of what you’re describing.”

In a recent mailing to county residents in the area, CWS said it plans to file applications with the Rappahannock County government to build the two additional towers in order to “bring wireless connectivity and improved public safety to the Route 522 corridor in southwestern Rappahannock County, benefiting those who live, work, and travel nearby.”

Interestingly, the Sperryville Pike corridor between Sperryville and Woodville is one of the least-populated regions of the county, with large farms on both sides of the road for five miles, including hundreds of acres of Eldon Farms.

CWS earlier won approval from the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors to build its first-ever cell tower in the Boston region, just south of the Rappahannock County line. However, only one cell carrier — T-Mobile — has signed a lease to provide service, which has upset surrounding residents.

There are no guarantees that a specific service provider would bring service to the existing Sperryville tower or other proposed towers in Rappahannock County, either. Of the primary cell providers, only T-Mobile has signed a lease to install its equipment on the new Sperryville monopole, joining Amissville-based Piedmont Broadband Co. and Rappahannock emergency services.

About John McCaslin 422 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.

5 Comments

  1. Perhaps in the future it would be best to go with the installer’s recommendation for color rather than trying to appease one individual.

  2. Well as usual our requests to make sure the Sperryville tower has Sprint coverage, was totally ignored but the Board of Supervisors. Almost everyone in the County has a Sprint device because of all the other towers in the County are SPRINT. What a waste.

  3. In addition, Franklin County requires that any tower company provide, with its application, an RF analysis showing coverage gaps and a letter of commitment from at least one major carrier, so that they are not built and then no one places any equipment on them. I was the Planning Manager there and it was my job to assess these types of applications.

  4. Tower companies can be required to run photo simulations such as you describe. In Franklin County we required them to go one step further and provide 360-degree terrain view analysis as well.

  5. It might be helpful to find a bright computer savvy kid with Adobe Photoshop to provide a rendering for us on the remaining towers. Certainly would have prevented the eyesore we have now.

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