AT&T Mid-Atlantic will be proposing to construct a 125-foot cell tower on Loudoun County’s Short Hill Mountain in the weeks ahead.
The tower is expected to address the need for improved wireless coverage for residents, businesses and public safety members, an effort made since 2018, according to company officials.
“As we've seen in the last couple of months, in particular, this migration from office park to home office, from school to home, from the doctor's office to telemedicine has really shown how important mobile broadband coverage is in western Loudoun County and across the country," Dan Langan, public affairs director for AT&T Mid-Atlantic, said in an interview with the Times-Mirror. “We think that this site will certainly fill those gaps and ensure that customers have access to the service they need.”
The proposed cell site addresses some concerns outlined in Loudoun County’s “Third-Gap Analysis” in 2014, according to the telecommunications company. The study was completed by Atlantic Group of Companies, Inc.
The site is located north of Hillsboro and rests between Routes 671 (Harper’s Ferry Road) and 690 (Mountain Road). The AT&T-owned land will include a 50-foot-by-50-foot compound with a 125-foot-tall monopole surrounded by a six-foot fence.
The height of the monopole was reduced from a previous proposal of 155 feet to 125 feet in response to feedback from the neighboring community.
AT&T representatives noted the new equipment would be smaller than the transmission dishes that were at the utility substation for more than 50 years.
The proposed site will have at least two co-location opportunities, allowing other wireless carriers to add coverage to the area.
The site, according to company officials, will also enhance voice and mobile broadband coverage for customers and prepare for emerging technology such as 5G, which is “significantly faster and more capable than today’s networks.”
AT&T has yet to file its special exception application. The company has held pre-application discussions with county staff in recent weeks. After the application is filed, the item will be examined by county staff, then go to the Planning Commission and then to the Board of Supervisors for a final decision.
If approved, AT&T officials said the proposal will support first responders and small and family-owned businesses.
AT&T's Short Hill property has been the subject of heavy scrutiny and controversy in recent years.
In 2016, the company sought to build a 3.5-acre facility atop Short Hill Mountain. The 160,000-square-foot, above-ground facility was proposed to be constructed on top of AT&T’s already-existing underground facility. For months the community pressed the county and AT&T for answers about the proposal, a project many speculated to be a data center or federal facility. The community pressure led AT&T to withdraw its application, and the Board of Supervisors voted to overturn the commission permit it sought on June 23, 2016.
The company's 155-foot monopole proposal in 2018 also generated community opposition.