Verizon Wireless Proposes New Cell Tower Near McDowell

Monterey, VA – The Highland County Economic Development Authority in a joint meeting with the EDA Technology Committee, invited Steve Waller of GDN Sites, a consultant to Verizon Wireless, to its meeting Tuesday evening. Mr. Waller is part of a team looking to site a 199 foot cell phone tower near McDowell, Virginia. Mr. Waller explains the goals of his team.

“We’ve got an assignment to find a site that would be able to serve the town of McDowell, travelers along [Route] 250 east and west; also Rt 678 north and south” says Waller. “The site we are currently working on is the site the radio frequency engineer selected based on the coverage that can be provided to those areas. This site actually has the best coverage to meet all three of those objectives.”

Verizon Wireless operates the cell tower located on Monterey Mountain that serves the town of Monterey and adjacent areas. Mr. Waller’s group is currently focusing on a site for the new tower located about 1 mile south of McDowell, just west of route 678, on land owned by Kevin Neal. Placing a cell phone tower in Highland County requires a great deal of planning due to the presence of National Forest land and the relatively close proximity of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia.

If the tower is in view from the National Forest, additional review of the project by the United States Forest Service is required. Cell phone towers in Highland county typically cannot be placed on ridge tops due to potential interference with the Green Bank observatory. Under these circumstances, companies often look to lower elevation sites that can serve the greatest number of users.

The preliminary choice of a 199 foot tower was done to keep it below the 200 foot height, which requires FAA approval and placement of lights on the tower. Mr. Waller goes on to explain the next phase of the project.

“Now we are in preparation to go into our section 106 review and work with the state historic department and see if there are any issues with this sites location in respect to the [McDowell] battlefield” he says “and if those issues are issues that can be mitigated to [the] point that the service isn’t affected beyond recovery, or if we need to move on and look at one of these other sites.”

Mr. Waller estimates that this tower project could cost Verizon between $250,000 and $500,000 and that it could be completed in 12 to 18 months. There are federal funds to subsidize adding cell phone coverage in underserved areas of Virginia, so Verizon would not be paying the entire cost of this tower project. Once the preliminary analysis of the project is completed, Verizon will be presenting its plan to the Highland County Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission and Zoning Office. Public hearings will also be held. That will probably not take place before spring of next year.

The next meeting of the Highland County Economic Development Authority is scheduled for Tuesday, November 9 at 7 PM in the Highland Center.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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