Albemarle County Planning Commission

June 28, 2005 – Partial Set

SP-2005-014 Crown Orchard – Grey Television Amendment


The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a meeting and a public hearing on Tuesday, June 28, 2005 at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Room 241, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia. Members attending were Rodney Thomas, Marcia Joseph, Vice-Chair, Jo Higgins; Pete Craddock and Bill Edgerton, Chairman. Absent was Calvin Morris, William Rieley and David J. Neuman, FAIA, Architect for University of Virginia.


Other officials present were Wayne Cilimberg, Planning Director; Rebecca Ragsdale, Senior Planner; Bill Fritz, Development Process Manager; Sean Dougherty, Senior Planner; and Greg Kamptner, Assistant County Attorney.


SP-2005-014 Crown Orchard – Gray Television Amendment (Signs #51&54) - Request to amend condition #1 of SP 2004-003 to allow an additional 30.28-foot flush-mounted television antenna to an existing tower. This request is being made in accordance with Section of the Zoning Ordinance, which allows for microwave, radio-wave transmission and relay towers, and appurtenances.  The property, described as Tax Map 91, Parcel 28I, is part of a larger parcel identified as Tax Map 91, Parcel 28 which contains 234.165 acres, zoned RA, Rural Areas.  This site is located in the Scottsville Magisterial District on Carter's Mountain Trail, approximately 1 mile south of the intersection with the Thomas Jefferson Parkway (State Route 53).  The Comprehensive Plan designates this site as Rural Area 4.  (Yadira Amarante)


Mr. Fritz summarized the staff report.


Mr. Edgerton asked if there were any questions for Mr. Fritz.  He asked which drawing the first condition was referencing in their packet.


Mr. Fritz stated that it was going to be Attachment G as stated in the conditions, which was initialed YGA 6/16/05.  On Attachment F, Ms. Amarante had noted the approximate location of the unauthorized dish because it is not actually shown on the diagram.  He pointed out the unauthorized tower on the diagram.  There were four approved antenna here, and what the Commission saw in the photograph was five antennas.  There are only supposed to be four antennas.


The public hearing was opened and the applicant invited to come and address the Commission on this application.


Valeria Long, attorney representing the applicant, Gray Television, stated that others present were Mr. Roger Burchard, Manager of Gray Television’s three local affiliates, and Mr. Tim Free, chief engineer for all three stations.  If there are any technical questions, she would be happy to defer to them.  She felt that Mr. Fritz summed up the facts pretty accurately.  All of the Commissioners were members of the Commission last year when they came before them to request permission for this replacement tower.  They were very grateful for the opportunity to be able to move so quickly.  The tower was built just in the nick of time and the station channel 19 did come on the air just in the nick of time.  So far things are going very well.  Gray television now operates three stations locally. The CBS affiliate channel 19, the ABC affiliate station channel 16 and as of yesterday a new FOX affiliate station channel 27.  They recently acquired an existing PAX station, WADA and essentially converted that to a combined PAX and FOX station.  So whether you know it or now our community now has a third local television station. She noted that it was the fourth, but it was the third Gray Television Station.  Therefore, Gray Television is very excited about that.  As Mr. Fritz mentioned the existing FOX station or its predecessor, WADA, has been operation using an antenna that is located on a completely different tower at Carter’s Mountain.  It is a tower that is owned by one of the public broadcasting stations.  That antenna is there and Gray Television will for the short term continue to operate using that antenna.  If this application is approved it would replace that antenna, take it off of the PBS station tower and upgrade the antenna using one that meets more current engineering specifications and would locate that antenna on its own tower.  That will provide a much clearer signal to its station on Elliot Avenue in the city.  It does not have to go through quite as many trees.  The PBS is actually a little bit in the trees and just does not provide as straight of a shot down into the broadcast studios.  It will also provide for better security and safety for the antenna because it will be located on the tower that it owns, maintains and controls.  That is very important to them.   As Mr. Fritz mentioned, the antenna would be located on the side of the existing tower essentially just on a different face of the tower much like the Channel 16 tower is.  When she learned yesterday from Mr. Edgerton that there was some confusion as to where the proposed antenna would be mounted she had some photo simulations prepared that she hoped would at least provide a better idea of where that would be located.  She presented the photo simulations to the Commission to review.  From the picture taken yesterday, the Commission could see that the small dish that was shown on the picture that Mr. Fritz referred to is no longer located on the tower.  It has been removed.  The background on that was that when Gray Television was scrambling to get Channel 19 on the air last summer prior to the FCC deadline they had technical difficulties with the main micro-waive dish feed for Channel 19.  The dish that was installed on the tower initially was not functioning properly.  So in order to make the station work and meet the deadline they installed that small dish as a very short term temporary measure until they could get the station on the air.  A few days later the main micro-waive dish started working just fine, but in the confusion associated with trying to get the new station on the air, they neglected to remove the small dish that was at that point unnecessary.  So it sat on there not even in function or in use since then.  As soon as it was brought to their attention by the Planning staff, they had it removed.  The pictures show that it has been removed.  She stated that she had witnessed that herself and would be happy to work with staff to have them confirm that.  The height of the tower would not be increased.  There would not be any need for any additional buildings at the base of the tower.  There is an existing road.  All of the equipment will fit into the existing building.  If there were any questions, she would be happy to answer them. In essence, this proposal fits the spirit of the Comprehensive Plan for this facility.  The proposal will not cause an adverse visual impact.  As the staff report notes it will not have any impact on the character of the district.  It is in harmony with the purposes and intent of the ordinance.  The use is permitted by right in the district.  Certainly most importantly to their clients, it will promote and enhance the long term viability of the new Gray television station channel 27, which they feel will provide a real public benefit to this community.


Mr. Edgerton asked if there were any questions for Ms. Long.


Ms. Joseph stated that she had said that they had been using an existing antenna on the PBS pole.  She asked if they would be removing that.


Ms. Long stated that if this application is approved, they would install the new antenna on the Gray tower and would remove the existing antenna from the PBX tower.  It would no longer be needed.


Ms. Joseph asked if it would be alright to add that to the conditions.


Mr. Fritz stated that the PBS tower was on a separate parcel from this facility, which is not part of this application.  That parcel is owned by a separate person.


Ms. Joseph asked what that means.


Ms. Higgins asked if there was a condition about all of them if they are inoperable to remove them after a certain amount of time.


Mr. Fritz stated that the tower has to be removed, but not the antenna.


Ms. Long stated that if it would help they would probably remove it anyway.  They are charged rent on the other tower. Therefore, as a condition of terminating their lease with the other tower owner they would be required to do that. 


Mr. Edgerton stated that he was concerned that they went through a special use permit last year and then it sounds like because of some technical problems the conditions of the permit were ignored and this extra antenna was put up.  He asked what kind of assurance the applicant could give the Commission to ensure that kind of behavior won’t occur again.  He noted that he really has some trouble with that.


Ms. Long stated that she certainly appreciates and understands that concern.  Certainly, without making any excuses, because Gray Television certainly takes full responsibility for this situation.  There was a great rush to comply with the conditions of approval initially and built the tower prior to the FCC deadline.  There was about a 15 day period that they had once the special use permit and the building permit was approved they were rushing frantically.  The out of town construction team came in to erect the tower.  It was all very close.  There was an oversight.  There were different employees on board working for Gray at the time.  There was a different station manager and a different chief engineer.  Therefore, the folks that are here tonight were not aware of the conditions of approval.  It was really just a combination of factors in their haste of meeting the FCC deadline and the staff turnover at the time with the lack of awareness.  But, she has met with them and has assured them of the importance of this issue.  That is why as soon as it was brought to our attention they worked very quickly to have it removed.  As soon as they could get the tower crew out there they had it down.  So they are here this evening.  They are very aware of her concerns with regards to the importance of complying with the conditions.  They are now hearing your concerns, Mr. Chairman, and we will work together to ensure that in the future anything that is added will done so pursuant to zoning.  (Attachment Two:  Photograph of existing tower in reference to SP-2005-014 Crown Orchard for Gray by Gould Digital Imaging distributed by Valerie Long.}


Mr. Edgerton asked if there were any other questions for the applicant.  There being none, he asked if there were any other member of the public that would like to address the Commission on this application.  There being none, he closed the public hearing to bring the matter back before the Commission for consideration.


Ms. Higgins moved for approval of SP-2005-014, Crown Orchard – Gray Television Amendment, with the conditions recommended in the staff report as modified by adding a statement that conditions 6 and 7 have been satisfied as of today’s date.


Mr. Craddock seconded the motion.


Mr. Edgerton asked if there was any further discussion.


Ms. Joseph asked Mr. Kamptner if a condition needed to be added about the removal of the antenna.


Mr. Kamptner stated that he had looked at the authority of the special use permit conditions and the concern about the removal of the antenna. With the property being a tower farm he wanted to make sure they controlled the cumulative effects.  He suggested that the conditions require removal of the antenna on the PBS pole for a period of 90 days after the issuance of the other antenna.


Mr. Fritz stated that he had confirmed that the PBS tower is on a separate parcel owned by a separate entity.  He stated that he did not know if that made a difference.


Mr. Edgerton asked if the antenna was owned by someone else.


Mr. Fritz stated that he did not know who owned the antenna. But, it was a good question.


Ms. Higgins stated irregardless that she would like to amend the motion to add an additional condition that says that Gray is the owner of an antenna on the PBS tower at whatever location and must be removed within 90 days after the new antenna is operable.


Mr. Craddock accepted the amended condition.


The motion carried by a vote of (5:0).  (Rieley, Morris – Absent) 


Mr. Edgerton stated that SP-2005-014 will go to the Board of Supervisors on August 3 with a recommendation for approval subject to the following conditions.


1.   The facility including the tower, its attachments and the new ground equipment building shall be sized, located and built in general accord with the construction plans, tower elevations and schematic drawings initialed SBW and dated May 5, 2004 and initialed YQA and dated June 16, 2005 subject to maximum height and width restrictions in conditions three (3) and five (5).  This information is provided in Attachment G of this staff report.


2.    Prior to the issuance of a building permit, the applicant shall submit the final revised set of site drawings construction of the facility.  Planning staff shall review the revised plans to ensure that all appropriate conditions of the special use permit have been addressed.


3.   The height of the tower structure shall not exceed one hundred fifty (150) feet and the top of the antenna, including the lightning rod, shall not exceed one hundred ninety (190) feet above ground level.  No equipment, with the exception of any FAA required flight safety lighting, shall extend higher than the tallest portion of the top-mounted antenna.


4.    Antennas supporting services other than television broadcasting shall not be attached to extend above a total height of the tower itself.


5.    The width of each side of the tower shall not exceed fifty (50) inches in width.


6.    The existing guyed tower that currently supports this facility shall be removed within sixty (60)   days of the completion of the new tower.  This condition has been met as of 6/28/05.


7.    The short existing tower, owned by Adelphia Cable Company shall be removed within ninety (90) days of the discontinuance of its use and in any case no later than October 31, 2004.  This condition has been met as of 6/28/05.


8.    The new ground equipment building shall be painted a natural, dark brown color, and screened on its eastern and western sides with evergreens or a mixture of trees deemed acceptable by the County’s Landscape Planner.


9.    No building permit for additional antenna installation or modification shall be issued until the unauthorized microwave dish is removed.


10.  The existing Gray TV antenna on the PBS tower located on Tax Map 91, Parcel 28E shall be removed within 90 days after the new antenna authorized by this special use permit is operational.


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